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Sandra Bernhard Is #Blessed

The comedian brings her latest concert show to Joe's Pub.

Sandra Bernhard brings her latest show, '"Sandra Bernhard is #Blessed'' to Joe's Pub.
(photo courtesy of the production)

It's something we all dread: sending an email and receiving a response that makes you realize the person you were writing to thinks you're someone else. But the experience is infinitely funnier when someone else talks about it. So when the actress/comedian Sandra Bernhard describes how she signed a congratulatory email to Jane Fonda "Sandy B," it's painfully hilarious when Bernhard realizes that Fonda thought she was Hollywood's other "Sandy B." As in Bullock.

This is one of the many laugh-out-loud tales in Bernhard's smart and sassy new cabaret show, Sandra Bernhard Is #Blessed, which runs through December 31 at Joe's Pub. The audience-pleasing evening is a mix of stand-up and cabaret, with a handful of songs and a whole lot of social commentary. For Bernhard's fans, it's an ideal set, though one that feels a bit rushed at times.

Bernhard, wearing a sparkly form-fitting dress and silver boots, has a keen eye for up-to-the-second social commentary. She riffs on Jay-Z and Beyoncé meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a basketball game at the Barclays Center. Twitter, of course, comes up; after all, the show's title is pronounced "Hashtag Blessed." Her observations in the show are incisive in a way that goes beyond the standard comedic commentary. Everything Bernhard says is rooted in reality and makes us laugh because we, too, realize how true it all is.

While the 70-minute set is largely scripted, her impromptu material is just as lacerating. When, during the reviewed performance, she got heckled for saying the popular phrase "Black Lives Matter" incorrectly, boy, did she let the heckler have it with an intelligent and obscenity-filled explanation of how she got her start performing in black clubs and how her pals and mentors, the African-American comedians Richard Pryor and Paul Mooney, would kick the heckler's butt for even implying that she might be racist.

Interspersed throughout were several musical interludes, a surprising list of tunes starting with "Where Am I Going?" from the musical Sweet Charity, and concluding with a smart remix of several recent pop songs. Her three-piece band, led by longtime musical director Mitch Kaplan on piano, is particularly tight.

If there's a downside, it's that Bernhard doesn't really stick to any one of her various subjects for very long. She pulls out the wedding section of the New York Times to hilariously address intermarrying Jews and focuses in on it for only a few seconds. Other ideas are seemingly half-finished, as though she's watching the clock in her head.

Still, Bernhard knows what her audience wants, and she has them eating out of the palm of her hand from the second she walks onstage. There's no greater joy than watching a masterful comedian feed off her crowd and give it right back to them in the form of an evening that's as #hilarious as it is #truthful.

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