Sandra Bernhard Embraces Audience at Suffolk Theater

Sandra Bernhard
Sandra Bernhard. Photo credit: Kevin Thomas Garcia

Sandra Bernhard kicks off Suffolk Theater’s first-ever Hamptons LGBT Comedy Festival on Friday, July 18, with a one-woman show featuring a mix of stand-up, music and even a little burlesque. Dan’s Papers chatted with the fiery performer about the show, her family and upcoming projects.

Tell us about the show you’re bringing to Suffolk Theater’s Hamptons LGBT Comedy Festival.
“Sandyland” is an ever-evolving buffet of observations, musical numbers and monologues that relate to my life. Every day there’s something new going on, whether it be socially, politically, globally…Usually there’s not enough time to cover it all, to be honest. I take things off the lazy Susan as it goes by. It’s very much a stream of consciousness. It moves fast and keeps people engaged, and most of all, entertained.

How have audiences responded to “Sandyland?”
“I love the way you’re doing this!” The core audiences know my work from various outlets know the mashup of music and comedy and monologues. It’s not straight-ahead music or comedy. Show tunes are my least covered material. I do a lot of heart-wrenching rock and roll and some original songs that I write. I like to keep it surprising and interesting.

Do you have “regulars” that come to multiple shows?
I do, mostly in major markets. People pop up in surprising places!

You have a very significant gay following. Why is that and what do you do to maintain that relationship?
My work was always sort of challenging and covered topics that the gay audience responds to—the irony, the camp, the musical selections, the emotional ups and downs of life. Those are all things that the gay audiences like. It’s a cut above the way other audiences might see my work.

Your daughter is a teenager now. Does she come to your shows?
She’ll be backstage occasionally. The past year she hasn’t come as much. She mostly comes to the shows I have in vacation settings. Kids start doing their own thing [as they get older]. She’s an excellent cook. She’s always trying out new things.

You’ve mentioned that you raised her to be a “city girl.”
Yes. I think most importantly she does her social thing. Kids in the city…they can go out, get pizza and go to a movie. You don’t have to ferry them around. It’s a great sense of independence. She’s pretty respectful. She’s into art, she reads a lot, she’s interested in quality television and films. There’s a lot of stuff. She’s starting to reach out to the arts.

Are you familiar with the East End of Long Island at all?
We’ve rented over the years, stayed with friends. It’s great—as long as you’re there when it’s not peak [season]!

Do you keep in touch with anyone from your days at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles?
I have a few friends from that time, like Paul Mooney, but overall I kind of left the pure comedy scene. I was very fortunate to be able to spread my wings and do venues like [the Suffolk Theater].

What else do you have in the works?
I did a guest starring appearance on the new FX series You’re the Worst. I play myself as an author. They’re starting to promote that. I’m also preparing to pitch two scripted projects that I’ve co-written that I’d be starring in. I’m getting back into it.

What should Suffolk Theater audiences look forward to during your show?
I try to tailor each performance to the audience. It really happens in the moment and depends on what the vibe is and who shows up. I really like to make it personal and exciting.

Sandra Bernhard performs at the Hamptons LGBT Comedy Festival on Friday, July 18 at 8 p.m. at Suffolk Theater, 118 East Main Street, Riverhead. For more information and tickets ($45), go to

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