Sandra Bernhard's one-woman show is aptly, if unintentionally, named after
her. Everything Bad and Beautiful
sums up Bernhard's larger than
life personality and distinctive artistic expression. She has evolved
from an outrageous comedienne who palled around with Madonna and traded
in on constant shock value, to a grounded and introspective performer.
Sandra Bernhard questions the status quo and exposes the pretense and
hypocrisy of our daily lives through poignant humor and music. In her
trademark one-woman shows, Bernhard sees quagmires and disturbing ironies
everywhere, and fleshes them out through a series of comedic moments that
fluctuate between animated and caustically dry. Some of her comedic pieces
leave you wondering if she is joking or making fun of the joke itself.
At her live performances, she expects the audience to be just as on point
as she. The surface-minded and frivolous need not apply.
During our conversation, I met a woman who clearly takes
herself and the world very seriously (a surprisingly common trait among
comedians), though she has the insight and spiritual fortitude to back
up her plight. We discussed some of the topics covered in Everything
Bad and Beautiful, and once again, the show's name seems all too appropriate.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): Tell me about your one-woman
show, Everything Bad and Beautiful? Are you still performing in
New York or are you touring now?
Sandra Bernhard: I'm on the road. I'm doing different
shows. But I performed [Everything Bad and Beautiful] for almost
four months last summer, here in New York. It's another one in a long
line of my one-woman shows dealing with topical subjects in my life and
they are all inter-woven with music. It's a real pastiche of our times.
PR.com: I know that you started off as a stand-up
comic, but was your vision always to be more of a performance artist,
as opposed to a traditional stand-up?
Sandra Bernhard: Well I've never considered myself a performance
artist. I call myself an entertainer. What I do is more of a throw back
to an eclectic style of music and comedy and satire, and it's much more
uplifting. It's not, like, some weird off-beat, kind of, obscure topic.
It's very accessible and my work is very emotional.
PR.com: As far as the topics or people you choose
to cover, how do you decide who and what you want to talk about? Is there
anything where you feel like you wouldn't go there no matter what?
Sandra Bernhard: I try to stay away from things that I think
don't have any real value culturally, and that I think I can't really
bring anything fresh to the subject. So I stay away from things that have
just been overdone. And I always try to bring a fresh spin to everything
that I talk about. In terms of where things come from, it's kind of a
grab bag. I draw from my life, from the world, from the street, from news
just things that pop into my mind that I find crazy and funny.
PR.com: Are all of the stories true that you put in
your show? Like with meeting John Kerry at the airport, was that something
that actually did happen?
(Sandra approached John Kerry when she spotted him
in a V.I.P. waiting area at the airport, to express her support for his
presidential campaign, back in 2004. He retorted with the words, "That's
great. I'm busy.")
Sandra Bernhard: That actually did happen. But not everything
is true. Some things I embellish because when you're performing, you've
got to keep it a little more interesting. But a lot of the stuff is based
on real incidence.
PR.com: When that happened, was that actually the
night of the election in 2004?
Sandra Bernhard: That was after the election.
PR.com: Then why was he checking his voicemail to
see how the vote count was coming along in Ohio?
Sandra Bernhard: I suppose because there was still some
sort of discrepancy.
PR.com: It seems eerily similar to what happened in
the year 2000. Do you suspect that both elections were not on the level?
Sandra Bernhard: We know for sure that the first one wasn't.
In the second one, I'm sure there was plenty of misanthropy, but a little
harder to trace and track, I guess.
PR.com: In Everything Bad and Beautiful you
lay into Laura Bush quite a bit. What is it about her that enraged you
to the point where you felt the need to speak out about her personality
and some of the hypocrisy that she represents?
Sandra Bernhard: Anytime a seemingly intelligent woman doesn't
speak up on behalf of other women or people in the world who are suffering
from tyranny, and your own husband is at the core of it, I guess it's
kind of free-game to take the piss out of people. Everybody has to step
up to the plate and I'm sure that she does not agree with where [George
Bush] is coming from on most things. But she's been totally silent, and
also hasn't done anything on her own to change the landscape of America
on any level. She hasn't inspired people, she hasn't come out and really
spoken out about certain things that are essential, because it would all
be completely counter-productive to what [her husband] thinks. So she's
just clammed up. I just think it's important to be reminded that women
are the backbone of what's really moral and important in the world.
PR.com: Do you think Laura Bush is a throw back to
the 1950s subservient "June Cleaver" type?
Sandra Bernhard: Oh, I don't think she is at all. I just
think she doesn't want to get involved. I think she doesn't know what
hit her. I think that she can't believe that they're in this situation
and I'm sure she takes him to task all the time, but like I said, what's
she gonna do? There's not much she can really do about it, so she probably
figures, "Fuck it. I'm just gonna clam up and not deal with it at
PR.com: You also talk about Condoleezza Rice in your
show. Do you think that she is in denial that she is a black woman?
Sandra Bernhard: I just think she's deluded. I think she's
under the spell of the whole neo-con[servative] system and she wants to
be part of it, so intrinsically that makes you in denial of who you are.
It's not a welcome world for people of minority, unless you've totally
sold out and are serving the master.
PR.com: What is someone to do if they are in fact
a minority, and they want to be in corporate America or they want to get
ahead in Washington? How does someone get around that catch 22?
Sandra Bernhard: I think you can be a thinking person and
balance out your heritage along with being a very informed and educated
person. I don't think you have to limit yourself by your race or sexuality
or anything, but you've got to be on the side of who you are, intrinsically.
She's a black woman. Somewhere along the line you've got to look in the
mirror and go, "I can't totally turn my back on my people and my
past. I can break out and do it from a different perspective, but I still
have to live with myself."
PR.com: From the Clinton years and now all the way
through George W. Bush's run, what I've noticed is when a Republican politician
has some type of mishap, it is very quickly suppressed by the media. You
might hear one two minute report and then it disappears. When a Democrat
makes a blunder, no matter how insignificant, it's blown up and scandalized
beyond recognition. Yet, everyone says the media is so liberal. What do
you think is going on there?
Sandra Bernhard: I think we can all answer that. Whatever
I say is not going to be much of a revelation, because that's just the
way they operate. I think democrats by nature are not as petty and would
rather focus on the issues at hand, and not get sidetracked. Because the
Republicans aren't really there for the people-at-large, they've got to
deflect what they really stand for by making issues out of minutia.
PR.com: Both you and Michael Moore are from Flint,
Michigan. Have you crossed paths with him in your career at all?
Sandra Bernhard: I know Michael. I think his work is really
innovative and brilliant. He's an original.
PR.com: In your opinion why has he evoked such extreme
emotions in both directions?
Sandra Bernhard: The people who agree with him and think
the same way are inspired by him because he goes for the jugular, and
the people who he is exposing are freaked out by him, so of course that
pisses them off because he hits a nerve.
PR.com: How do you think the Democrats can overcome
the staunch PR efforts and mud slinging that the Republicans and the conservatives
are constantly throwing at them?
Sandra Bernhard: I think it's to address it head on, especially
with a personal attack. Do what they need to do to fully defend themselves,
and expose the people doing it. They have to have the balls to follow
through on it.
PR.com: I agree, but I find it very frustrating that
the Democrat's mistake taking the high road for effectively defending
themselves. Alright, let's talk religion
I know you have a Jewish
background, as do I, and that you have chosen to embrace Kabbalah
Sandra Bernhard: Kabbalah is not a religion. Kabbalah is
a spiritual explanation of Judaism. It's all tied in. Unless you go to
the mystical side of it, you don't understand what all these daily traditions
and practices really mean. It's the dissemination of the spiritual side
PR.com: So it's not separate? It's actually a part
of observing Judaism?
Sandra Bernhard: It's not a part of observing Judaism. It's
about extrapolating out of Judaism a spiritual meaning. I would recommend
it if you're Jewish, but I would also recommend it for everybody. It's
like any spiritual practice, if it's right for you, like Buddhism, Hinduism
or doing your yoga. Everybody needs a spiritual path to go on. I think
it's in keeping with that philosophy.
PR.com: Do you think that the trend of celebrities,
and especially celebrities who don't have a Jewish background, getting
involved with Kabbalah, do you think it diminishes its credibility in
Sandra Bernhard: Maybe it diminishes the credibility
of The Kabbalah Center (The Beverly Hills based Kabbalah Center that
is often frequented by Madonna, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and many other
celebrities), which is where that's available, but it doesn't diminish
the credibility of the study of Kabbalah.
PR.com: In a nutshell, what is Kabbalah? What does
it offer you in your life?
Sandra Bernhard: It offers me a deeper understanding
of what we're all doing here. [It gives me] peace of mind and a deeper
compassion and understanding toward my fellow man, and actual practical
tools for healing and connecting to a higher consciousness.
PR.com: You've mentioned in the past that much of
the conflict and negativity in this world is actually the result of religion,
because religion is a crutch and people don't have to think. Do you think
that religion can be used productively on this planet, if at all?
Sandra Bernhard: Only if it's based in spirituality. If
it's just following the dogma, the rules of religion, then it's useless.
PR.com: The rituals are almost akin to that of OCD
if there's no meaning behind it.
Sandra Bernhard: Exactly.
PR.com: When you became a mother, were you single
at the time or in a relationship? And did you choose to become pregnant
as opposed to adoption, because you wanted to experience pregnancy?
Sandra Bernhard: Yeah. I wanted The Full Monty! I guess
if it hadn't worked out, maybe I would have adopted, but it did and it
was a total blessing and an incredible experience. I love the way it all
PR.com: Do you want to have any more kids?
Sandra Bernhard: No. I think I'd like to raise one child
to the fullest capacity that I have, as opposed to overwhelming myself.
In the world we're living in, if you're not really completely involved
and on top of your child's upbringing and day to day routine, you can
really lose track of where they're headed.
PR.com: What's your take on these young girls like
Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan going to jail and drug rehab?
Sandra Bernhard: That it's a total distraction from what
is really essential and what's going on in the world. People are lazy.
They don't want to face the responsibility of what they can do, day to
day, to effect change in the political system and in the environment and
their own survival on the planet. They'd rather just sit there, watching
some empty headed girl do stupid things. It makes them feel better because
they can laugh at it and look at it, and it's somehow a distraction. I
really don't talk about any of those people in my show, with the exception
of Britney [Spears], because I can actually weave it into some sort of
thing that's kind of emotional and ironic.
PR.com: And what is the new show that you're working
Sandra Bernhard: It's called Plan B. It's a little
more freewheeling and improvisational. It's night to night, very different.
PR.com: What do you like to sink your teeth into most,
political issues, social issues or entertainment?
Sandra Bernhard: For me, everything falls together and
becomes entertainment. If I can do something personal and talk about it
in a personal way, that's how it works. That's how I know that it's something
right for me to be talking about.
PR.com: You got some rave reviews for Everything
Bad and Beautiful. Do you read your reviews and give them credence
Sandra Bernhard: Well, I'm only interested in it from
the perspective that it helps support the show, but in terms of what it
does for me emotionally or my ego, I'm not that interested.
PR.com: How do you wish your career to be summed up
through this point in time, as far as who you are as a personality and
as an artist?
Sandra Bernhard: I think the most important thing is that
I've always been very iconoclastic and honest and true to my view of the
world and my own personal exploration. So I always like to think of myself
as an artist who comes from a place of truth, and who is also very entertaining
and encompassing the world and emotions and things that really matter.
Sandra Bernhard's 'Everything Bad and Beautiful' is
available on CD with exclusive video footage along with her dance single
'Perfection' available now through Breaking Records - www.breakingrecordsmusic.com.