Sandra Bernhard is a song stylist.
A comedy stylist, too ”“ almost always in the same show.
While most comedians do stand-up acts and most singers do cabaret acts, Bernhard typically combines both genres in her distinctive shows.
She’s the master of the one-woman show, having written produced and performed many in New York and across the country. Among the best-known are her off-Broadway hits Without You I’m Nothing and Everything Bad & Beautiful and her Broadway hit I’m Still Here… Damn It!
The eclectic actress-comedian-writer-singer-rocker will appear in two shows Friday at Axis Nightclub, 775 N. High St.
Bernhard, 56, spoke recently about her career, with more intriguing comments than could fit into a Q&A on the Dispatch’s Monday Life cover. Here’s the rest for her fans:
Q: How much does your act evolve from month to month or year to year?
A: I’m constantly changing my show. In the past 10 years, since I did I’m Still Here… Damn It!, I’ve written probably seven to 10 big new shows, plus new material that bridges an older show.
Q: How do you develop new material?
A: Some stuff comes from writing little sketches. Or I write down ideas or one-liners as I go along. I pick songs that might be fun and build stuff around it.
Q: How do you make a song into something more?
A: I always try to tell a story through a song. Even if it’s a heavy metal song from the ”˜ 80s, those are connected to where we might have been at that time. I try to weave in a vibe of where we’ve been, where we’re going.
And I never make fun of songs, even if it sounds like we’ve heard it a million times. I don’t do song parodies. I take each song seriously.
Q: What favorite songs are a part of your show?
A: I never give my song list away… I like to surprise people.
Q: How do you describe your comedy?
A: My work is very personal. I reveal a lot about myself through my comedy. I create funny stories, some based on partial truths. I weave these personas and relationships, fame and celebrity… Then there’s straight ahead odd observational stuff, but it’s uniquely mine.
Q: You’ve been called bold, quirky, and sarcastic. How do you feel about your public image?
A: It’s hard to know what people really think of you. I think people can know you better a little through social networking, Twitter or Facebook. You can put stories or thoughts out there, and be a little more tempered. The moist important thing is to maintain your connection to the public.
Q: What performers did you most admire while growing up?
A: Carol Channing. Carol Burnett. Mary Tyler Moore. Tina Turner. Carole King. Joni Mitchell. The Rolling Stones. They’re all people who are hybrids and unique…
When I was a little older, I loved Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler. Lily did amazing characters and was a brilliant writer; Bette came from a raw emotional place with her singing and storytelling. That was very influential in how I approached (my career).
Q: Among your best-known roles is Nancy Bartlett, Roseanne’s lesbian co-worker on Roseanne. What did you learn from working with Roseanne, John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Estelle Parsons and the other cast members on that now-classic TV sitcom?
A I learned a lot from being around all those people. The ensemble was amazing. And Roseanne continues to transcend everything that’s going on.
Q: Any new projects coming up?
A: I’m getting much more back into television again. I recently filmed an episode of Hot in Cleveland and GCB (formerly Good Christian Belles), a new ABC show with Kristin Chenoweth (due to debut in early March on Sunday nights).
Q: Any career dreams left unfulfilled?
A: There’s nothing I haven’t gotten to do, I just want to do it more and do it bigger. I definitely want to be on a TV series that lasts for five years and have that feed my performing and film work. But my favorite thing is being onstage performing. Getting to be in front of people and a new audience is just what I do to do.