A GoPride Interview

Sandra Bernhard

Sandyland: Comedienne Sandra Bernhard brings her show to Chi-town

Wed. December 4, 2013  by Jerry Nunn

I don't mind being in Chicago on a day off. It is so rare that I get to be anywhere that I like to be and have a minute for myself.
Sandra Bernhard
Funny lady Sandra Bernhard is never one for mincing words. Her career began with a stand-up career that landed her a big break in Martin Scorsese's film The King of Comedy. She won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress for her part in it.

Bernhard was the first actress to portray a lesbian as a recurring character in 33 episodes of Roseanne on ABC. She has appeared on many shows like Hot in Cleveland, The L Word, and The New Adventures of Old Christine. Coming next year she has a new role on Switched At Birth.

In the meantime we have a two night opportunity to see her perform Sandyland in a unique venue at the Museum of Contemporary Art right off Michigan Avenue.

Jerry Nunn gave her a call to see how she has been since her last Chicago visit.

JN: (Jerry Nunn) Hi, Sandra. How have you been?

SB: (Sandra Bernhard) I'm busy but good.

JN: I am so excited you are coming back to Chicago.

SB: I know it's great, love it!

JN: We are going to adopt you.

SB: I wouldn't cry the blues...

JN: You did such an awesome job at the City Winery.

SB: Thank you. I think this time will be a little different but equally as fabulous.

JN: You are going to be at the Museum of Contemporary Art this time.

SB: Well, I am a museum piece.

JN: I was wondering if you have ever painted before.

SB: No, I left that to my mom. I am not the painter in the house.

JN: I saw you are playing an artist on TV.

SB: I am playing an art instructor, who is also a successful artist and going through a crisis on Switched At Birth.

JN: I have to watch that.

SB: I think my episodes don't air until January. I will be doing some press before that so people will know when it will be on. They wrote the part for me so it was really nice. It's fun and a good role. It is nice to be exposed to a younger crowd and that needs a little more sophistication.

JN: So with the MCA dates you have a day off in between.

SB: I am not sure why they did it that way but they are hosting some big dinner for me that night. I don't mind being in Chicago on a day off. It is so rare that I get to be anywhere that I like to be and have a minute for myself. My girlfriend is coming from New York so we will get to have a day in Chicago, maybe do a little shopping and just bop around.

JN: You can walk The Magnificent Mile and check out all of the decorations.

SB: Of course.

JN: Congrats on 14 years with Sara. That is a huge accomplishment.

SB: It is a big accomplishment and a work in progress. Anyone who is in a longterm relationship knows that it's no walk in the park.

JN: Everyone is getting married now with gay marriage becoming legal in our states. What do you think about that?

SB: I think it's great of course. It's the best thing that has ever happened. It is not something that really interests me per se. I like to go to those weddings though and I actually officiated a gay wedding last year that was very posh and fabulous. They really did it up at The Russian Tea Room and hired me to marry them so I thought that was super chic.

Right now I don't have time to get married! [laughs]

JN: They just passed gay marriage here in Illinois.

SB: Congratulations.

JN: I was at the Sinead O'Connor concert at City Winery and someone yelled out that it passed and she said, "That is something to celebrate" then sang a song a cappella.

SB: That is nice. What a sweet thing.

JN: She still has the pipes.

SB: That's good to hear. She is a great singer.

JN: Your band is called the Flawless Zircons, which is a new thing.

SB: Yeah, to mix it up. I have had my core musicians that I have worked with over the years but you can't drag people out from the West Coast to Chicago. I am bringing my guitar player from New York and two local guys from Chicago. It is the same thing as last year at the City Winery.

JN: Oh, they were good.

SB: They were most excellent! I wish they were New York based because they were fucking rocking.

JN: I remember specifically they were something special.

SB: They were awesome and so nice.

JN: With the title Sandyland will there be holiday themes?

SB: Well, it will be a little bit of everything. There may be some little retreads from last year. I am sorry I am not a magician and invent an entire new show in less than a year. There will be some new stuff. I took a European vacation this past summer where we took the backroads and the highways so there is always new stuff to tell. Life just keeps evolving so thusly the material keeps evolving with it.

JN: I never get tired of hearing your celebrities stories.

SB: Thanks. I might attract a different crowd there but I like to do some classic material. Like my girlfriend says, "If you come to see Stevie Nicks and she doesn't do "Rhiannon" or "Gold Dust Woman" then it's like hellooo, Stevie, I didn't want to hear that new song!"

JN: You have some diehard fans that follow you around like her.

SB: I know and it's really nice. I appreciate it very much, trust me.

JN: I can tell you do because you meet people after your show. Sometimes artists just take off in their limo and they are out of there!

SB: It has been fun and twofold. I used to never sell merchandise at my shows but people wanted t-shirts and CDs. They want to take a little piece home of Sandy. I like to come out and see people and build those lifelong relationships.

JN: Do you have a new CD or DVD coming out?

SB: I am working on it. I started shooting it two years ago in LA. My director didn't go awol or anything but he was writing it and couldn't get it together to finish it. Right before Chicago I am having a meeting about it. I should know more about pulling the financing together to finish it. Otherwise I am getting some people together who are on the fly and savvy with a high def camera and shoot it myself. Who the fuck cares?

JN: I have seen bootleg live CDs at your shows.

SB: Yeah, maybe I will put out a new bootleg and screw everybody. Make it for five hundred bucks and call it a day! I will own it with my material and just fuck everybody. [both laugh]

JN: You just played in Dallas and I wonder if they are going to be the last with getting gay marriage.

SB: I mean women are barely holding their own in Texas. I can tell you when I talked about it in both Austin and Dallas people were roaring and furious that women are being held down by that clodhopper out there. It is outrageous. You can't go from Ann Richards to that shithead, but it's Texas, it's a big, big state. There are a lot of people there that are mixed up.

JN: I heard your daughter has the political gene a bit too.

SB: She does. She's a bit of a film buff. Last night we sat and watched Deer Hunter. She found it quite fascinating. She is president of film club at school. They are going to watch The Big Lebowski. She had a choice of five films and she consulted me on what I thought. Now I am blanking on the others but we settled on The Big Lebowski.

She's just in it, you know what I mean? I tell her to start a comedy notebook because she comes up with the funniest things. Last night we were watching some insane ad about a man cave and she paused to say, "Well, you are going to have to pay a price for it!" Her timing was hilarious. I told I would Tweet it and she asked for credit. That is my girl!

JN: Would you be okay with her going into the biz?

SB: I am okay with her writing. I just don't think she has the stamina to do the performing end of it but she might surprise me. If she does it she will be successful at it. Whatever she chooses I have total faith and confidence in her.

JN: You have to bring her to Chicago too.

SB: With school I couldn't bring her on this trip but we will swing back through.

JN: Have you watched Orange is the New Black yet on Netflix?

SB: I have not watched it but my friend is on it, Lea DeLaria. The whole watching things on a computer just doesn't do it for me. I know you can hook it up to your TV and all of that shit but I have just been on the fly. But I will, I know it is supposed to be cute.

JN: You will love it. I will see you at your show.

SB: Well you better come to the meet and greet. Until then we can still Tweet with each other.

JN: Definitely!

SB: Bye, honey.

See Sandyland on Thursday, Dec. 5 and Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Edis Neeson Theater in the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago Avenue. For information visit www.mcachicago.org.

Interviewed by Jerry Nunn. Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.