When she first appeared on the scene, Sandra Bernhard was an impetuous flirt whose svelte figure and pronounced expressions brazenly attracted the glitterati, for better or for worse. But despite detours and sensationalism, she’s not only managed to grow as a human being and performer, she’s still able to make a 20-year-old show reverberate with timeliness. That’s right, the longtime Kabbalah-loving comedienne is back on the comedy circuit, celebrating the 20th anniversary of her original off-Broadway debut, Without You, I’m Nothing. And, even at 53, Bernhard still knows how to shock and be raw.
…on being Jewish
I don’t think my work reflects being a Jewish comic… I do make references to [being Jewish], but I think I’m transcendental to it all. But, of course, I’m proud of it all and embody the best of the Jewish spirit. I don’t agree with Jews and Evangelicals who get in bed together to bomb Iran. World War III is antithetical to the absolute basis of being a Jew and a Jewish soul.
…on Jewish men
I joked in my act about my daughter not bringing a boy home with an uncircumcised penis. The circumcised penis is wonderfully aesthetic to revel in. If I’m involved with it (which I wouldn’t [be] these days since I’m happily taken), I want a clean, circumcised penis that’s fresh and clean with none of that gross skin to pull back.
…on being gay in Hollywood
Closeted female celebrities don’t want to define themselves because of the roles they want to get. If you want to play a straight role, you don’t want to have people think you’re gay and then not cast you. It goes two ways—if you’re comfortable with it, it’s fine, but wearing two different hats is hard. You don’t have to be â€˜out there’ with your sexuality. If it interferes with your mental health, no one would take you seriously—like Whitney Houston, who had to give in to industry standards and it destroyed her. There are lots of double standards and mental health issues within your own skin. You need to be able to lay down the law with the studios.
In the gay male world, if you’re not that into someone and it’s not a serious relationship, that’s when men sleep around. Men just behave differently. Maybe it’s the makeup of men in general—straight men included. The penis is external, so they see it and it takes up a big chunk of time. Especially gay men who feel less responsibility feel like, â€˜Why not just go for it?’ But if you’re in the right setting, why bother? You don’t feel like spinning wheels; it takes too much energy, it’s gross and nasty. I was never a big partier; it’s part of my act or might have been part of my act. But even when I was freewheeling, I kept my dignity.
My hope for America is that, no matter their views of race or sexuality or finances, that people be compassionate and understanding enough to know we have to do our part. You can’t just stand back and criticize either from the right or left. The country has to be secure with a happy medium of where we’re all happy and productive in our everyday lives. Instead of standing outside an abortion clinic, be a mentor to one of those kids who’ve been brought into the world. Don’t abandon the kid; follow through.