Comedian, actor and singer Sandra Bernhard returns to San Diego
By Anthony King | SDUN Editor
San Diego has seen a barrage of comedian, actor and musician Sandra Bernhard this year, starting with her four-day special engagement at the La Jolla Playhouse in March, her set at the San Diego LGBT Pride festival in July – where she also served as parade grand marshal – and now three separate stand up sets in Little Italy on Friday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 27.
“It’s really weird. I haven’t been in San Diego for 15 years,” she said the week before her Anthology gig. A fan of La Jolla, Bernhard said she is ready to return to San Diego to offer a slightly different show from March’s theater production.
“It’s a downtown event,” she said of the Anthology show. “To those who didn’t want to go to the theatrical setting, this is a funkier, fun thing and they’ll get a different side of Sandy.”
The show will also be different than the short, outdoor set she did at Pride in Balboa Park, she said, though she did have a great experience at this year’s festival and parade.
“The San Diego Pride was incredibly organized. The parade was amazing. It was so fun and wonderful, and people were so high-spirited but respectful, supportive and wonderful,” she said. “I just felt it really captured the spirit of the best of the gay community in an incredible setting.”
A longtime, vocal supporter of LGBT rights, Bernhard does not shy away from talking about issues important to our community in both her personal life and career.
Of the many groundbreaking career moves Bernhard has done, perhaps one of the most important was portraying the first openly lesbian recurring character on primetime TV. From 1991 to 1997, Bernhard played Nancy Bartlett on “Roseanne,” which brought being gay to audiences across the United States.
Hollywood has since changed – perhaps even benefitted from the groundbreaking work Roseanne Barr and Bernhard did in the 1990s – and now with a litany of primetime shows including LGBT characters and talking about LGBT issues, Bernhard is both critical and full of praise.
“I’d say ‘Modern Family’ is the only one that even comes close to having the humanity that makes it work,” she said. “The other shows I find to be cartoonish and maudlin.”
She said she finds the Ryan Murphy-created shows, like “Glee,” to be “highly campy” and “mean spirited,” especially his most recent, “The New Normal.”
“What’s the point? What are they trying to say?” she said. “I don’t think any of it makes sense, especially now with so much conversation and so many great sophisticated approaches to the gay lifestyle. Why would you settle on this?”
Her expectation that audiences want something more than the lowest common denominator drives her stage show, and she said she never plays down to those who come to see her.
“I expect that the audience wants something that also takes them to a higher place and exposes them to things that are uplifting and smart and cutting edge,” she said. “My shows move very quickly from subject to subject and idea to idea. It’s a journey and it’s going down a lot of roads very quickly. … It’s a great fun trip.”
That is not to say she shies away from talking about controversial subjects. She has gained a reputation as someone who likes to talk politics, on stage or online, and as a smart, educated woman she does it well.
And she said her audiences expect it.
“They know I’ll have plenty to say about where we’re at and hopefully where we’re going,” she said.
Leading up to the November presidential election will give Bernhard material for her shows next week. A staunch Barack Obama supporter, Bernhard had plenty to say about the Oct. 16 presidential debates.
“I was thrilled that Obama got his mojo back and I think Mitt Romney showed his true colors: his contemptuous, angry, petulant, nasty, mean-spiritedness that he’s renowned for,” she said.
“Obama’s not a pushy, mean-spirited person. He’s a kind person. He’s a thoughtful, introspective person, but he’s also not a push-over.”
See Bernhard talk politics, sing a few tunes with her band and join her in her living room, she said, at Anthology, located at 1337 India St. on Friday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 27 at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets start at $12 and can be purchased at anthologysd.com or by calling 619-595-0300.