Comedian Sandra Bernhard brings her latest show, ‘Sandyland,’ to New Hampshire
Brash, brazen, foul-mouthed and fiercely funny – all of these words describe actress and comedian Sandra Bernhard’s shtick. But one descriptor often left out is the key to her success: heartfelt.
“I try to keep it fresh and funny and from a personal perspective,” Bernhard said. “My comedy is always from the heart.”
Bernhard will bring her brand of raucous truth to the Silver Center for the Arts’ Hanaway Theatre in Plymouth tomorrow at 8 p.m. with her show Sandyland. Equal parts standup, rock ’n’ roll show and theater, with a smattering of burlesque and cabaret, Bernhard said that Sandyland tackles a variety of topics, from the political landscape to fashion to being a mother.
“I try to kind of like weave together, you know, a very, very, interesting, unique perspective on my travels, the world through my filter, all interwoven with songs and music,” Bernhard said. “This show will be a little bit unplugged since I’m coming with just my piano player. Nevertheless, it maintains its sort of musical integrity. I love to sing and punctuate my ideas and my monologue with music. So it’s become sort of a postmodern musical, comedy extravaganza.”
Bernhard said the blend of musical theater and comedy started early on, primarily because she always wanted to sing, “That was my first love,” she said.
But comedy came easier. She started doing standup in the 1970s, at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles.
“When I moved to L.A., I kind of fell into the comedy scene, and it was very easy and accessible to get up at a comedy club and to do my material,” Bernhard said. “But then of course I didn’t want to lose the musical aspect of it, so I started doing songs and blending it all together sort of from the beginning of my career.”
She soon was touring nationally, which was a coup for her brand of comedy, which could shock as much as it entertained.
By the early 1990s, Bernhard made her way into the tabloids as a sometimes-sidekick to Madonna and by playing the first openly gay character on network television. As Nancy Bartlett on the sitcom Roseanne from 1991 to 1996, Bernhard helped forge a path that today is well-trod, but back then was an anomaly.
“That’s how quickly things change. . . . It’s great to be a part of that culture and the signposts along the highway that let us know where we’ve been,” Bernhard said. “It’s interesting because really when Roseanne and I talked about which direction the character was going in. I don’t think anyone was trying to make a big, big statement in that way, but it was great to see it unfold. I always kind of played with sexual politics, that was sort of in the pocket of what I was doing at the time.”
Since then, she’s continued to stretch her talents, making appearances on television shows like ABC’s The Neighbors in 2013, TV Land’s comedy Hot in Cleveland, on Logo’s DTLA, CBS’s The New Adventures of Old Christine, FOX’s American Dad, NBC’s Crossing Jordan and The L Word among many others. She also has the distinction of appearing more than 30 times on Late Night with David Letterman.
This season, Bernhard will return to television as a guest star in ABC Family’s original drama series, Switched at Birth. Bernhard plays recurring character Teresa Lubarsky, an art professor at a local college.
Bernhard said she particularly enjoyed the role because it gave her a chance to try dramatic acting. In fact, she said, she’d love to do some straight up acting on Broadway in the future.
In addition to television and film, she’s commanded Broadway in numerous live shows, including I’m Still Here . . . Dammit!, which opened Off-Broadway in 1997, moved to Broadway a year later, and was filmed for an HBO special. Her most recent shows include Everything Bad and Beautiful and I Love Being Me, Don’t You? which played to sold-out crowds for an extended run last summer in Los Angeles. The album version of the show was released on Rooftop Records last fall, and she has since been touring almost nonstop.
She kicked off her 2014 tour in early January, following a five night, sold-out stint at New York City’s Joe’s Pub.
Bernhard said comedy is much different now than when she got started, particularly for women. She said not only is it easier for women to be accepted in the comedy scene, they no longer are relegated to self-deprecating humor. “It’s really no holds barred, and everyone’s taking (comedy) in so many different directions these days,” she said.
As for Bernhard, she said, while her shows are always evolving, she holds to some basic principles when she constructs one of her shows.
“I’ve always tried to talk about things and put a spotlight on things that I thought were interesting and were worth taking a deeper look at,” she said. “I wasn’t worried about if I was going to offend somebody or if it was new. I just figured it was inherently new because I stay true to what I find interesting.”
Bernhard’s live show, Sandyland, will start at 8 p.m. at the Silver Center for the Arts’ Hanaway Theatre at 114 Main St. in Plymouth. Tickets are $30 to $35 for adults, $28 to $33 for seniors and $15 to $20 for youth, and can be purchased online or by phone at 535-2787. For tickets or information, visit plymouth.edu/silver-center.