FUNNY GIRL: Q&A With Sandra Bernhard

[Artwork via FREAKINGNEWS]

Caustic comedienne, fearless actress, incisive social critic, enemy of narrow minds and all-around envelope-pushing cultural provocateur, Sandra Bernhard has somehow maintained a 30-year career as the proverbial bull in the china shop of show business. And for all of that, we love her. In advance of her week-long run at the Painted Bride, which starts tonight, we got Miss Bernhard on the horn to discuss, among other things, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Madonna, Roseanne, Philip Roth, Adele and the President Of The United States Of America!

PHAWKER: You were born in Flint, Michigan. Do you share Michael Moore’s perspective on the demise of Flint and for that matter his perspective on the world in general?

SANDRA BERNHARD: I left Flint when it was still a booming little town. It’s hard for me to have his oversight, but of course it’s obvious our industrial have been decimated and that way of life has changed forever. I don’t know if this country will ever be the same again.

PHAWKER: Your first significant film role was as the celebrity-stalking Masha in The King Of Comedy. Best thing about being in a Martin Scorsese movie? The worst?

SANDRA BERNHARD: Everything about The King Of Comedy was a learning experience for me. It changed my life and I am forever grateful to everyone involved.

PHAWKER: What is it like to do a scene with Robert De Niro? How much do you talk about the scene with him before cameras roll? Does he stay in character between takes? Does he prefer that you don’t talk to him when the camera isn’t rolling?

SANDRA BERNHARD: It was an acting workshop working with Bobby D. He did stay in character but we would chat throughout and he was not uptight.

PHAWKER: Jerry Lewis’ anger at your antics in King Of Comedy seems real. How did you guys get it to that point? What do you remember about those takes where he’s tied up and you are toying with/trying to seduce him? BERNHARD: Jerry had never worked with a woman like me before so I think it took him off guard which added to the relationship organically. I did a lot of improvising during the seduction scene which was off the wall and once again made it even more realistic.

PHAWKER: Truth or dare: Were you and Madonna lovers or did you just play one in the proto-reality show that was her life? How would you characterize your relationship with her these days?

SANDRA BERNHARD: We were having fun and our friendship covered a lot of territory, running around to parties and dinners and being trouble makers all in the name of a good time. We run into each other now and again. Everyone is very busy, but cool.

PHAWKER: You played Nancy Bartlett, one of the first openly gay recurring characters in prime time, on the hit sitcom Roseanne for six years. You’ve been quoted saying it was both a blessing and a curse. Explain?

SANDRA BERNHARD: No, I never said it was ‘a blessing and a curse.’ It was another great experience with amazing actors writers who remain good friends. The gay aspect was groundbreaking but not heavy.

PHAWKER: Presumably you voted for Obama. To quote Sarah Palin, how’s that ‘Hope-y, change-y thing workin’ out for ya?’

SANDRA BERNHARD: I still admire President Obama. He has done a lot of very important things for the population at large: Health care,
holding back tax increases, gay rights. He’s up against it but still on top.

PHAWKER: Occupy Wall Street, pro or con?

SANDRA BERNHARD: I think the Occupy movement has been very important and I support what it stands for.

PHAWKER: Please finish the following sentences. The first time I was in Philadephia I ______. The last time I was in Philadelphia I ______.

SANDRA BERNHARD: Felt the pulse of America.  Saw the great sophistication that I love.

PHAWKER: What’s the last book you read?

SANDRA BERNHARD: Philip Roth’s American Pastoral.

PHAWKER: What’s the last piece of music you purchased that knocked your socks off?


PHAWKER: If you could warn any young women looking to break into show biz about one thing, what would it be?

SANDRA BERNHARD: That you must stand by your strengths and know who you are.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *