Without Her We're Nothing

The legendary Sandra Bernhard sits down with The Advocate before the one-night-only revival of her seminal one-woman show Without You I'm Nothing in Los Angeles to discuss Tori Amos, why Prop. 8 is "the best thing that could happen to the gay community," and how she she could possibly love both Rachel Maddow and Rachel Zoe.

BY Job Brother

November 18 2008 1:00 AM ET

In 1988
performance artist, actress, comedian, and woman-about-town
Sandra Bernhard premiered her tour de force one-woman show
Without You I’m Nothing in Los Angeles. In
1990 she turned the piece into a film, directed by
John Boskovich, in which she did everything from sing
Burt Bacharach in front of go-go boys to don
oversize African robes and headdress to sing Nina Simone's
famous song about race, "Four Women." Of all of
Bernhard's shows, none spanned so many cultural,
poetic, and popular movements as Without You I Am
Nothing,
 proving that Bernhard was not just a
comic but an inspired and insightful medium of modern
America. Twenty years later she returns to Los Angeles in a
one-night-only performance of Without You I'm
Nothing
at the Orpheum Theater on Friday, November
21, giving fans, old and new, a chance to
laugh and love the show all over again; with its sharp wit,
brassy musical numbers, and insights -- all served up
with a healthy helping of chutzpah as can only be
dished by simply Bernhard.

Advocate.com:Why have you decided to bring back
Without You I’m Nothing?
Sandra Bernhard: It’s the 20th anniversary.
It’s a seminal piece of work for me and put me on the
map as a live performer. You know, it’s
interesting how our lives go in these cycles; I think
there’s a lot of material that fits into where
we’re at culturally right now. And
there’s so much new material that’s in the
show that it’s really not the Without You
I’m Nothing
it was then. The beautiful
thing about the show is it was always very fluid
depending on what was happening that night. The major key
pieces that people recognize are there too, so
it’s a fun trip down memory lane. 

How much of your show is improvised? Well, if I’m doing a show that’s
brand-new, the entire show could be improvised -- I
could do 100% improvisation. But this show is probably
25% improv.

Do you get a lot of roadies following the show around? You mean groupies?

Groupies! What did I say? Roadies? I meant groupies. Roadies are people who work for you. Groupies
are people who come and stare at you and love you.
[Laughs] I’ve had some groupies over the
years. Unfortunately, not too many anymore -- it’s
too much work. But of course there’s my die-hard
fans, but they’re usually a little smarter than
a groupie.

Was there any material that now feels like an
awkward fit or no longer suits your state of mind or heart?
No. So much of what the show’s about,
with its impressionistic personas, still works for me.
It still holds up.

Is there a typical scenario wherein which you write
your material?
I write in notebooks. I’ve got a stack of
notebooks I’ve kept over the years. Whenever an
idea percolates I jot it down. When I travel I keep my
notebook handy, but I don’t do a daily thing -- I
don’t try to force writing. Ideas come, and
they come so often, especially with the political
scene -- there’s just so much constantly coming at
you.

Tags: Theater

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