Sandra Bernhard Wants to Help You Feel the Bernhard at Joe's Pub
The always-candid actress and comedian talks cabaret, Bernie Sanders, and seltzer.
Sandra Bernhard is not afraid to tell you what she thinks. "I've always been able to shoot from the hip and say what I feel," says the famous comedy chanteuse, reflecting on her four decades in show business. And don't think that your 140-character missives and misquotes on Twitter are going to cow her into submission either. "I'm pretty succinct, so things always seem to pan out," she notes.
Bernhard's brash and outspoken style has earned her a dedicated coterie of fans, many of whom will surely be in attendance at her annual year-end residence at Joe's Pub. Titled Feel the Bernhard, the show promises to be a roundup of 2015 conveyed through a mixture of songs, stories, and stand-up — all with a distinctive kick that only Sandra Bernhard can provide.
She spoke to TheaterMania about the show, her new hourlong radio program on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, and her love of Schweppes. (Won't somebody there please give her an endorsement deal already?)
What's up with the title of your new cabaret show?
It's a nod to Bernie Sanders. How we wish he would automatically be the front-runner and win the election. Unfortunately, I don't think that will be the case.
Your daughter, Cicely, will be eligible to vote this year. Will you be taking take her to register?
She's taking care of that on her own. The kids these days…the smart ones…are jumping at it. She's a big Bernie fan.
You've commented that she's your harshest critic as a performer.
Yes. She is. She's got different tastes than I do and even if she really doesn't, she's not going to let me know that. That's how it is with kids. They always put up a wall to establish their own identity separate from yours.
That's very true. That said, did you ever worry that you might have given birth to a Republican?
Oh no no no no. That was never going to be within the realm of possibilities. Thank God!
The description of the show reads, "Sandy has had it with the 1%. If you're sick and tired of being held down, join the 99%ers for a revolution Sandy style!" Why is cabaret the right venue to talk about wealth disparity?
It's an honest way to earn my money. There are no advertisers or commercial third-party underwriters. I'm not on the dole for some pharmaceutical company. Of course, there are certain advertisers that I'd be glad to represent: Over at my daily radio show on Sirius, I feel like I already have a deal with Schweppes. When I started doing my show there, that's what they'd bring me: a can of Schweppes sparkling water. So I do these funny rants about Schweppes and all my fans have jumped on board. I thought they would have signed me on by now, but they haven't. I am working on that.
Your radio show is an hour every day on Radio Andy, Andy Cohen's Sirius XM channel. Is this something you've always wanted to do?
No. I had never thought twice about it, frankly. But Andy Cohen, who has been a big supporter of mine and a good friend, put this radio channel together. We had lunch over the summer and he asked me if I would be interested. I said yes. It's a base salary, semi-decent money. It's just nice not to have to jump on a plane a couple of times a month if I don't want to. It keeps me close to home. Also, it has really helped me sharpen my spontaneous outbursts of brilliance. I get to curate the music and I think I've had some fabulous guests on.
You recently spoke to Laurie Metcalf, who is starring in Misery on Broadway. Have you been to see the show?
I haven't gone to the theater recently. I love Laurie more than anything in the world. I will see Misery, because we're planning to have dinner one night after the show. The reviews were abysmal…for the show itself, not for her. It seems like a rough night at the theater. Laurie makes everything worth it, though. She's one of the best actresses working. She's amazing.
How long have you been ringing in the New Year at Joe's Pub?
I've honestly lost track. Even when I'm not at Joe's Pub, I've always performed on New Year's Eve. Out of forty-some years, I think I've been onstage on New Year's Eve for thirty-seven or thirty-eight. I can only remember a couple of years that I wasn't and it always felt wrong. The stage is where a performer belongs that night. What else am I going to do? Go to a party? New Year's Eve doesn't mean anything to me except for the ability to pull people together.
Do you have a special tradition for midnight?
We always do a crazy punk-rock version of Auld Lang Syne. It starts slowly and ends in madness and mayhem. People are kissing and hugging and I get to wave my magic wand over the audience and hope they have a wonderful year.