We live in exciting times. Sandra Bernhard describes Hillary Clinton becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee for president as “a beautiful confluence of all the things I dreamt of growing up. It’s the culmination of the evolution of being a woman and the feminist movement.”
Bernhard is known for her biting criticism of everything from celebrity culture to politics, though she’s got nothing but love for Clinton. Her latest show, Feel the Bernhard (of which the title is more of a play on Bernhard’s surname than a comment on Bernie Sanders), “is so much more than politics. It’s anecdotal, it charts my journey every year. I curate the best of what I’ve gone through, observed and experienced. Woven into the show is music that’s evocative and reflective, and the whole thing becomes the latest road mark of where I’m at and where I’m going with my life.”
Longtime fans and those in search of intellectual entertainment will have a chance to see Bernhard perform at Guild Hall in East Hampton on July 8. “Performing at a place like Guild Hall is the ultimate summer experience. Getting to do what I do in that setting—it’s very intimate, you know? Out here, it’s people’s second home. It’s a groovy experience,” she says.
Born in Flint, Michigan, and relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona, for much of her youth, Bernhard hit the LA comedy scene in the late 1970s. She was cast on The Richard Pryor Show and then got her big break in the 1983 Martin Scorsese film The King of Comedy alongside Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis.
Since then, Bernhard has played one of the first openly gay characters on prime time in the role of Nancy Bartlett on the sitcom Roseanne. She’s written (and performed in) award-winning shows such as I’m Your Woman and Without You I’m Nothing; has recorded numerous studio albums including Excuses for Bad Behavior (Part One) and I’m Still Here…Dammit!; not to mention authoring three books and making frequent appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman. Over the course of her career she’s acted in countless films and TV series, most recently appearing in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and 2 Broke Girls.
Bernhard now hosts her own daily radio show, Sandyland, on SiriusXM. “I’ve done it for the past year, now, taken the subway to work every day. It’s been an interesting meditation on what it means to be a New Yorker in a totally different way than I’ve ever experienced it. I’ve never had a day job, per se, so seeing how people move around the city, negotiate it—it’s been fascinating for me to just people-watch and make mental notes.”
On her radio show, Bernhard says, “At least one or twice a week I like to remind people about the water crisis in Flint. The only solution is for the governor to release funds—we can’t just keep sending bottles of water and making promises. The pipes need to be replaced. It should have gotten started the minute the news surfaced.”
One thing Bernhard doesn’t do is dwell on the past. “Life moves so quickly. Prince died and Prince was a huge influence on me. It’s like waves—they bring all sorts of different things when they crash on the shore, but nothing sticks around for long. That’s the news cycle. If you don’t grab the proverbial seashell it’ll be gone.”
What else will she get up to while in the Hamptons?
“What’s better than taking a walk on a gorgeous beach? I love to barbecue. I’m not really the sitting around kind of person,” she laughs. “We’ll go to Round Swamp. I love the farm-to-table movement. And there’s nothing like a good pie, blueberry or peach. I don’t embrace the social life out here, or go into town. I want to be away from people, so when you have generous friends like I do, you come out here and stay with them. Our dogs are best friends.”
Sandra Bernhard will perform Feel the Bernhard at Guild Hall on Friday, July 8, at 8 p.m. For more information call 631-324-2722 or go to guildhall.org.