Most people would recognize Sandra Bernhard from her work on Roseanne as the Conner family’s married neighbor who later came out of the closet as prime time television’s first openly-gay character.
Fans of Martin Scorsese films would remember her for her role in The King of Comedy as Rupert Pupkin’s partner-in-crime, kidnapping Jerry Lewis’ talk show host to fulfill the delusional Pupkin’s plan of being a beloved entertainer. Her turn in the 1983 film garnered her the National Society of Film Critics’ Best Supporting Actress award.
Others would see her as part of the crop of late 1970s’ comics that started to make a name for themselves in clubs across the country and by the exposure given to them by the nascent HBO cable television comedy specials. If you lived in, say, Sioux City, Iowa you could now see comedy acts from places in Los Angeles and New York merely by turning on the TV. What a radical notion for our pre-internet world, huh?
And some would know her for her SiriusXM radio show “Sandyland.”
Born into a conservative Jewish clan in Flint, Michigan and raised in the arid climes of Arizona, Bernhard lived in an Israeli kibbutz prior to packing her bags and heading to the City of Angels. Wanting to be a stand-up comedian “from the age of five,” she worked as a nail technician prior to tackling the stand-up stage at The Comedy Store. She honed her act over a few years and landed the Scorsese gig, holding her own against heavyweights such as Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis. Eschewing the “normal” routine, Bernhard crafted one-woman shows, displaying her considerable talents in I’m Your Woman in early 1985. A few years later she put together an Off-Broadway show called Without You I’m Nothing, With You I’m Not Much Better.
As her star grew brighter, she parlayed her talents into myriad of projects: She played opposite Big Bird in Sesame Street’s Follow That Bird; a small, but memorably hilarious, role as a villain in Bruce Willis’ criminally under-rated Hudson Hawk; the object-of-affection in the Madonna documentary Truth or Dare; a self-mocking cameo in Zoolander.
And, of course, her stint on Roseanne.
Oh yeah, she can sing, too.
Saturday, April 30th, will see her perform Feel the Bernhard at Euclid Avenue’s Trinity Cathedral. The show, described as “A Music and Comedy Cabaret Performance,” will see Ms. Bernhard pepper the show with anecdotes from her 35+ year career, sing a few songs, and bring her irreverent comedy stylings to the old church.
But it’s an old church. With a stone foundation. We should all be okay.