Sandra Bernhard: A Cruise to Reality
BY Jami Smith
December 06 2011 5:00 AM ET
Things are about to get even hotter in Cleveland as Sandra
Bernhard and pal Laura San Giacomo make a guest appearance as a lesbian couple on
Wednesday’s episode. Bernhard chatted with The
Advocate about the show, her big plans for New Year’s
Eve and about which of the GOP candidates is craziest.
You just did a hilarious episode of Hot In Cleveland. Was your first lesbian cruise with Betty White
and Valerie Bertinelli everything you thought it would be?
was everything and more. All of the ladies on the show are hysterical and I
really connected with everyone. It’s hard because they are doing one episode
after the next so it can be tough to come in as a guest star. They went above
and beyond. I love Laura San Giacomo (Bernhard’s girlfriend in the episode)
too. I’ve known her a long time and she is a class act. I’d love to come back.
You were my very first lesbian experience, so to speak.
Your character, Nancy, on Roseanne
was the first lesbian I ever saw on TV.
I think Roseanne’s approach to everything was so revolutionary and people just
got into it because they related to the blue-collar experience back then a lot
more than they do now in a certain way. Whatever she talked about was fresh and
new and we never approached it in a heavy, political way. It was fun and
accessible and still within the realm of what her show was about. She never
took it to a place where people felt threatened by it.
Did you get a good response from the gay community back
Not particularly. With a lot of gays back
then, you had to be political. I was one of the first performers to walk a line
with sexuality and I got a lot of shit back then. If you didn’t fly your flag a
certain way, you were a traitor in the community. I played with a lot of images
in my show, so it was never black or white and still isn’t. Sexuality is fluid
and people have a lot of emotions about it. I’ve always rebelled from sticking
to a didactic emotion about gayness. Gay people enjoyed Roseanne
because it was fun and smart, but I wasn’t particularly recognized for it.
What about from people like me, watching in rural
America? It was all new to me.
Over the years, I’ve gotten very nice
feedback from people like you who have said that I’ve helped them through
turmoil and tumultuous times. To be a positive influence is very satisfying as
a performer. I just try to do good work.
You’ve been known for having a political opinion or two.
I think the current lineup of GOP candidates are fish in a barrel for stand-up
comics. Who’s your fave?
One is crazier than the next. I guess it would be a toss up between Herman Cain
and Michele Bachmann. They’re just caricatures. The wheels are off all of the
carts and there’s nobody viable so the whole thing is an impossible serious
conversation to have about any of these people. The Republican Party is in shambles.
Not that the Democrats are at the top of their game either, but I do think
everything is shifting. Things are in flux right now so hopefully something
positive will come out of it.
You’ve had a longtime partner and are raising a teenage
daughter. What are Sandra Bernhard’s tips for raising a teenager?
You present ideas of morality and respect
and present it in a way where they can figure it out for themselves. I don’t
over lecture or beat a drum but certainly there are parameters. That’s how it
is around here. It’s not a runaway train. There has to be appreciation for what
they have in their life and other people. I’m heavy in the discipline area but
I don’t beat a drum about it.
Do you see yourself becoming your parents?
I’m nothing like my parents. I’m very
present and involved but I step back and observe the whole person. Kids go
through a lot of changes and you have to weigh everything and decide what
battles are worth fighting and I think my parents’ generation wasn’t as savvy.
You should write a parenting book. The Queer, Feminist
Comedian’s Guide To Raising A Baby.
It’d be a way more interesting read than Dr. Spock.
I’ve actually started to write. I have about 10 chapters about
parenthood from my perspective. Not about how to be a parent, just
observational stuff. It might be part of a book or something. We’ll see.
You do a pretty big New Year’s Eve show every year here
in New York City. Can you tell us about it?
The whole point of the show is a year-end wrap up. I kind of take a look at
what’s happened in a year and where we are headed. There’s bits and pieces from
my show that I’m touring with, I Love Being Me, Don’t You? and a few new songs. It’s just a big
holiday party. It’s fun because I don’t have to go out on the road and it has become
a holiday tradition for me.
Any New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. Every
day is a work in progress for me. I kind of take stock in my life every day
when I get up and see what changes need to be made in my relationship, with my
kid, with the way I perceive the world. On a spiritual level, it’s a day-to-day
task. I don’t think you change everything overnight. Resolutions don’t work.
They have to be subtle, and you have to be persistent to affect change.
Bernhard will be performing at Joe’s
Pub in New York City December 28 to 31. Tune in for her episode of Hot
In Cleveland on Wednesday.