Sandra Bernhard’s work has always been about playing off what the world gives her. In her latest show, Sandemonium, coming to Guild Hall in East Hampton on Saturday, June 30, she offers insight into issues that plague society today.
It’s a show Bernhard looks forward to performing. She says she adores Guild Hall itself, and the “excuse to be out in the Hamptons and combine a work and relaxation weekend.” When she’s not performing, she loves to relax with friends, barbecue local foods and enjoy the warm summer nights.
Bernhard, a singer, actor and stand-up comedian, has been honing her craft since the late 1970s, receiving the Davidson/Valentini Award at the 2002 GLAAD Media Awards. She initially wanted to be a singer, but had an uncanny ability to engage people in a comedic way. So, on the advice of friends, she went on to pursue comedy at The Comedy Store in West Hollywood and never looked back. While performing her stand-up she says she’s been able to “sing and do various band’s and [other] musical albums and do my comedic work, so I’m very satisfied with the balance of both things in my life.”
Her big break came alongside Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis in Martin Scorsese’s 1982 film King of Comedy, in which she played Masha, a persuasive woman who kidnaps the main character. The performance won her a Best Supporting Actress award from the National Society of Film Critics Awards. Bernhard says, “I sat and observed a lot during my scenes and watched how people got into their headspace… it was a great launching pad for me.”
In Sandemonium, Bernhard focuses on contemporary issues, such as being “hacked and ghosted, and all the kind of hot-button topics that are serious but also funny and strange at the same time…they are mainly just things that are right out there in front of us, the things of the moments.” (Though she asserts that she has never been ghosted herself.)
As her topics change, Bernhard sticks to the themes that led to her success in the first place. The things that mattered when she was young still matter now, “like people being able to be free and express themselves without any sort of judgment, the world remaining open and a work-in-progress, not shut-down. It’s all sort of givens—the environment and women’s reproductive rights, equality, basically equality for everyone.” She believes that we all need to take a step back and reveal what we really feel in this country.
These topics have been covered on her radio show, Sandyland, on Sirius XM Radio, which she feels gives her a way to connect with her audience. “I kind of guide them on and you make this daily connection and bond with people in a way that you can’t see, but it’s more visceral in a way, it’s emotional and that’s been really cool.” She adds that she has enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of the full creative process, from writing to producing, on Sandyland.
In the end, Bernhard just wants people to “find [the] center of who [they] are and feel secure in that. I think the world would be a much better place if people felt that way.”
See Sandra Bernhard at Guild Hall at 158 Main Street in East Hampton on June 30 at 8 p.m. guildhall.org or 631-324-0806.