Sandra Bernhard traditionally sees out the year and rings in a new one with a string of sold-out performances at New York City’s hallowed venue, Joe’s Pub. This year was no different with her theme for the shows being Easy Listening. Prepping for her season of joy Bernhard reflected on musical loves, politics, culture, touring and travel.
Sandra Bernhard‘s performances are infused with stories and music, showcasing her exceptional musicality and captivating voice. The trailblazing performer has captivated audiences with her distinctive blend of cabaret, stand-up, rock-n-roll, and social commentary since her debut at LA’s Comedy Store. Recognized as a pioneer of the one-woman show, Bernhard’s groundbreaking productions, including “Without You I’m Nothing” and “I’m Still Here… Dammit,” garnered critical acclaim and loyal followers. With shows like “Everything Bad and Beautiful,” “#blessed,” and “I Love Being Me, Don’t You?”, she tours nationally and internationally.
Bernhard’s longevity as a successful celebrity and activist has provided us with numerous TV cameos and memorable roles on shows like Pose, 2 Broke Girls, and American Horror Story: NYC. We checked in with Sandra over the holidays to learn more about her upcoming show and to learn more about her life on the road.
Jeffrey James Keyes: Early this December you were in Texas with Sandyland Presents: Stand With Texas and next up you have Easy Listening at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in New York City. Can you tell us a little about these two shows?
Sandra Bernhard: We are at a crossroads in this country, the likes of which have never been seen and Texas is emblematic of all of the issues at hand: abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, education, the list goes on and on, so my team and I thought it would be cool to curate three shows addressing these topics with local performers, Drag artists, and speakers from various organizations who can speak to some of the solutions and gathering of like minds to get involved to bring about change.
I will be hosting each event and closing with my own set, and I am very excited about this. I also happen to love Texas, the food, the culture, and the unique vibe that reflects the best of the state and our country too.
It’s always so wonderful to catch your shows at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. You have quite a history of performing at this venue. What keeps bringing you back?
Joe’s Pub is an incubator for developing new material and weaving in the celebration of the holidays and the New Year. The intimacy, the vibe, and the whole connection to the Public Theatre are so inspiring, it’s the closest thing to entertaining in my own living room. The cocktails are delicious, and so is the food!
I love the description of Easy Listening, with mentioning your musical influences from listening to the Supremes in Flint, Michigan, to your first concert, Simon and Garfunkel, to the cross-country move in Arizona. Can you share how travel has influenced your work as an artist?
Travel is everything for me, wanderlust, beautiful vistas, cozy rooms, sounds, sights and smells of cuisine and culture, and getting to know people on their own turf. To be a visitor, with respect and fascination is regenerating and inspiring.
Your favorite venue or city to perform in, and why?
Here in the States, there are four cities: New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and LA. They represent the best of America, with just enough difference between each city to make them feel unique, and of course, London is the best city in the world.
Over the years you’ve been on the road quite a bit. Do you have any sort of travel rituals or anything you can’t forget to pack?
I have to have my toiletries, anything and everything Patchouli, the right pajamas and slippers, a flannel shirt for hanging out, yellow legal pads for writing notes, and the latest book I’m reading, which right now is A Visit from The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.
What about a pre-show ritual?
It takes quite a while. I always get my hair done by someone. It’s hit and miss, but when I’m in my hometown I have the best people and I can really relax. I can do my own makeup but not my hair. Of course, we have a sound check with my crew, The Sandyland Squad Band led by Mitch Kaplan, who has been my musical director since 1985! We also do an energy “chee” before each show, so we are connected and ready to hit the stage!
Is there a city you haven’t performed in that you hope to one day?
Yes, I’m working on Berlin which I have been trying to arrange for years, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, maybe Tokyo, just because I want to go there!
How about for a vacation, is there a favorite place you like to go to, or somewhere you hope to return to one day)?
Italy is at the top of my list; Paris, London, and I need to get to Spain. Above everywhere, my spiritual homeland: Morocco, there is nothing else like it. When I’m there I feel transported to another place and time and I vibrate at a completely different speed.
Can you share what’s on your playlist? Do you have any go-to music you listen to when you’re on the road?
Classic Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, The Pretenders, Aretha, and Tina Turner. I’ve gotten very into Lana Del Rey lately, too.
What are your hopes for this year?
Whew! That we maintain our democracy, that we can all stay the course and retrieve our sanity, peace, true equality, and a way to live side by side around the globe with harmony and happiness.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I am developing a project with Judy Gold called Active Adult Community. I will also have three new songs that I co-wrote that will be released in the new year, reminding people that not only am I funny, but I can sing too!
Keep up with events in Sandyland here.
Vacationer spoke to Sandra Bernhard.