Recently, Sandra Bernhard, the inspiring artist, actress, comedienne, and outspoken activist, took the time to chat with Out regarding I Love Being Me, Don't You?, her upcoming tour, and CD release. Our chat ran the gamut from gay marriage and sex education to the Rapture and -- what else? --Oprah Winfrey.
Out: It was just announced that you're headlining San Francisco Pride this year. Sandra Bernhard: I'm always happy to be in San Francisco -- it's one of my favorite cities.
It's where you taped'I Love Being Me, Don't You? Bernhard: That's right. We taped at the Castro Theatre a few months ago. San Francisco is so beautiful. The air is so clean. It's a great classic American city that I get'the privilege'of going out to once or twice a year, and whatever I get to do -- whomever I get to rub elbows with -- it's always a fun time for me.
How would you describe your show? Bernhard: It's a mash-up of cabaret, burlesque, rock-n-roll, and musical theater with all the different styles of performance art that have influenced me since I was a kid. I just try to squeeze it all into one crazy hour-and-a-half extravaganza.
I heard from Jake Shears, who's in town working on'Tales of the City,'that you two have a project together? Bernhard: Jake and I are very close. Jake actually wrote a song for a musical that I've written with Justin Bond that the two of us are going to star in here in New York called "Arts & Crafts."
What's the story? Bernhard: We play cousins who haven't seen each other in a long time, and we end up coming together at a family friend's wedding in Maryland. I've gone off in one direction and his character has gone off in another. I end up showing up at his apartment in New York and moving in with him -- unbeknownst to him. It's kind of a romp and an emotional breakthrough. There's great music.
Now that Oprah's program has ended, what are your thoughts about her taking a break from the show? Bernhard: Maybe people will get back to wanting to see a show where they aren't just given things all of the time [laughs]. I think she's created a country of takers. We need to stop expecting people to hand stuff to us just because we're watching TV. She's created kind of a monster out of the audience. Of course, she's wonderful and generous, but I think she's one of those people and I understand why she's making her exit from the spotlight.
In New York State, there's the Marriage Equality initiative that everyone is getting on board to support. Anna Wintour just filmed a PSA! Bernhard: Good for her.
Are you and your girlfriend down with that? Bernhard: What marriage? As soon as I get a tax break, my girlfriend and I will get on board with that [laughs]. It's strictly business.
What about the bill that just passed in Tennessee? Bernhard: Where you shouldn't say the word gay or something?
It would make it illegal to mention homosexuality in class to kids before they reached the 9th grade. Bernhard: I don't know if the kids down there understand the full scope of 'gay.' The whole fabulous and fun aspect of 'gay.' It just might throw them in to a frenzy. For sure, like saying the word is definitely going to make somebody gay. Guess what? Half the kids down there are probably gay already. The country is crazy. I don't even want to go there. Just have compassion. That's all I've got to say.
And there's been discussion as well there about removing sex education... Bernhard: Good! Maybe they'll just stop reproducing in Tennessee. I think that might be the best thing that could possibly happen.
It's in states where they've removed sex education that we've seen so many problems.'The National AIDS Trust came out with a report this year that one in five people still think that HIV can be transmitted through spitting on someone or coughing on them. Bernhard: That doesn't surprise me one bit. It all goes hand in hand. If someone doesn't have access to real information, of course they don't know what's going on. That's a given.
How do you address sex when talking with your daughter? Bernhard: It's just a part of our day-to-day lives. She's been exposed to things that are appropriate along the way. Things that are not appropriate, she hasn't. It's all done with intelligence and sensitivity -- as anything should be when it comes to your child. That, and common sense. That's all. When it comes to what is being taught in school, I trust that it is also done with the right amount of sensitivity. I'm not worried about that. But listen, I live in a rarefied world. My whole set-up is unlike the average American citizen's, but it's a perspective I wish everyone had in this country. If we all just stop being so uptight about it, we wouldn't have all the perversion that it creates. It's like a pressure cooker. There are people who don't talk about it because they can't face their own impulses, and that just creates weirdness.
We're at the 30-year anniversary of HIV and AIDS, and you just saw'Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart. Bernhard: I have a lot of mixed feelings. I lost a lot of friends in the early years of the AIDS crisis. I think there are a lot of people who still don't take full responsibility for their health in regard to themselves, as well as other people. It's a mixed bag. People are not aware. As you just mentioned, they aren't facing the facts, and moreover, don't even know the facts. Are people able to live with it? For sure. Are pharmaceutical companies profiting by it? Yes.'Nobody in the government seems to really want to do anything about it, but it's a work in progress.
Some people who have compared the virus to a biblical plague also expected the End of Days to have begun last week. Bernhard: I truly believe that the irresponsibility of all these people certainly hastens the end of civilization and sophistication'and'intelligence. They're definitely responsible for that. Does it mean the world ending in a physical way? No. Slowly we've managed to kill off parts of the planet with our hubris and selfishness. These are people who have given up and don't want to be responsible for their behavior, so they pawn it off on things that were written in the bible.
The Fred Phelpses of the world talked about the Rapture as though San Francisco would fall off into the ocean and that New York would explode into a ball of fire because of all the gays and the Muslims. Bernhard: And where are we seeing all these floods and tornadoes? Who's getting hit the hardest? The Bible Belt and the South. Jesus ain't just sittin' around, honey.
I Love Being Me, Don't You?'will be available for purchase on June 7 at iTunes, Amazon, RooftopComedy.com, and other online music outlets. To find upcoming tour dates, head to her official website.