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Sandra Bernhard (born June 6 1955 in Flint, Michigan) is an American actress, comedian, author and singer. She first gained attention in the late 1970s with her stand-up comedy where she often bitterly critiques celebrity culture and political figures. Bernhard is number 97 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest standups of all time.
Bernhard has often addressed her childhood in interviews and within the context of her stand-up comedy. In early childhood her family moved from Michigan to Scottsdale, Arizona. She speaks of racially-motivated teasing during childhood, stemming from being a young Jewish woman amongst those she describes as "blonde WASPs". In particular she speaks of the mockery of her stereotypically Jewish features, such as her lips and nose. During an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show she stated "I'm the only actress in Hollywood who didn't pay to have these lips."
Of her family, Bernhard stated in her show Without You I'm Nothing: "My father was a proctologist and my mother was an abstract artist, so that's how I view the world." In the documentary program Girls Who Do: Comedy, she discusses being a funny teenager. After graduating from high school she went to live on a kibbutz in Israel. She moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19. During that time she made ends meet working as a manicurist in a high-end salon.
Bernhard became a popular staple at The Comedy Store. As her popularity as a comedian grew she was cast as a supporting player on The Richard Pryor Show in 1977. Guest appearances on evening talk shows followed. Her big break came in 1983 when she was cast by Martin Scorsese to star as stalker and kidnapper Masha in the film The King of Comedy. Bernhard later spoke of her contentious relationship with co-star Jerry Lewis. In a 2006 interview on The View she claimed he called her "Fish Lips", and that he "wanted me to fall through a glass table in my bra and panties."
She began performing her first one-woman show called I'm Your Woman in 1985, and an unsuccessful album version was released. Bernhard appeared in a variety of small film and television roles throughout the 1980s while crafting her stand-up routine into a more performance art oriented show. She launched an off-Broadway one woman show called Without You I'm Nothing in 1988. It quickly moved to Broadway where it was a roaring success. In 1990 it was turned into a film, also called Without You I'm Nothing; and into a double-album of the same name. In all three she notoriously performed a ballad version of the Prince song Little Red Corvette; in the film she did a strip tease to Prince's version.
Around this time in her career Bernhard developed a friendship with Madonna, and the two were frequently seen together in public. The two made intimations of a romantic relationship, but the friendship ended badly. Neither has been direct about the reasoning, but, when asked, Bernhard often hinted at a betrayal on Madonna's part. (Bernhard would later state in her show I'm Still Here, Damn It! that the two had made up.) In September 1992, Bernhard did a nude pictorial for Playboy.
In 1991 Bernhard began playing the role of Nancy Bartlett on the hit sitcom Roseanne. She appeared in 33 episodes between 1991 and 1997, and was one of the first actresses to portray an openly lesbian recurring character on American television. The role is one of her most known, something she has lamented in her stand-up as being both a blessing and a curse.
Bernhard continued acting in mostly independent films and T.V. guest roles; forays into mainstream films such as Hudson Hawk and Dallas Dolls were all bombs. Her stand-up and one-woman shows continued to be popular, however, and in 1991 she released her first studio album, entitled Excuses For Bad Behavior (Part One). It was not a commercial success.
Bernhard returned to Broadway in 1998 with the show I'm Still Here...Damn It, which was recorded for a live comedy album. At that time she was pregnant with her daughter Cicely. For the next several years she would self-record all of her live shows and release cheaply made CD-R versions which were sold in the lobby of her shows. She continued touring and making smaller films and T.V. guest appearances.
She returned to New York in 2006 with the Off-Broadway show Everything Bad & Beautiful. It was her first label released CD since 1998. In 2007 she began touring with the show.
In June 2006, Bernhard appeared on the television program The View, and in a seven-minute segment, her commentary on race and politics incited two of the hosts to rage. Bernhard is not a stranger to the show, having appeared numerous times before, but her comments on Mariah Carey infuriated Star Jones, who barely made eye contact with Bernhard after the first two minutes. She was then asked by Barbara Walters to discuss her opinion of Laura Bush, which sent Republican co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck into an angry rant ("First of all, HONEY yourself!"). Host Joy Behar, a friend of Bernhard's, then left the stage (for comedic effect), and the segment was cut short.
In August 2006, Sandra Bernhard served as the spokesperson in a commercial for Make-up Art Cosmetics (MAC). In the commercial, promoting PlushGlass lipgloss, Bernhard referred to someone who might not approve of her outspokenness as a "...little freaked out, intimidated, frightened, right-wing Republican thin-lipped bitch". MAC pulled the commercial after "enormous reaction" from customers and the blogosphere, although the video is viewable on YouTube.
Bernhard performs classic pop music, jazz, and blues tunes. She has released several albums (combinations of music and comedy) including:
- I'm Your Woman - (Special Re-release in 2004)
- Without You I'm Nothing - (Special Re-release in 2004)
- Excuses For Bad Behavior (Part One)
- I'm Still Here... Damn It!
- The Love Machine
- Hero Worship
- Excuses for Bad Behavior (Part Two)
- The Love Machine Remastered (entirely different than The Love Machine)
- Giving Til it Hurts
- Gems of Mystery
- Everything Bad & Beautiful
- Live and Beautiful
Bernhard has released a number of singles as well. They are:
- Everybody's Young (7" Promo Vinyl Single only)
- You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)
- Manic Superstar (Promo CD Single only)
- Phone Sex (Do You Want Me Tonight?)
- On the Runway
Bernhard appears on numerous compilations and projects by other artists, including:
- AT&T Presents Stormy Weather song "Is That All There Is?"
- Divas of Dance - Volume 3 (Remixes) song "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (Frisco Disco Mix)"
- Breaking For the Holidays (2006); song "Miracle of Lights"
All of the CD's from "The Love Machine" through "Gems..." have been cheaply produced CD-Rs, which is commonly what comedians sell at their shows. In 2004 Bernhard re-released special edition albums of I'm Your Woman and Without You I'm Nothing. The re-releases of both included special tracks, as well as several guests to help attract a new audience. Bernhard has stated that Excuses For Bad Behavior (Part One) will be re-released in late 2007.
Bernhard wrote three books:
- Confessions of a Pretty Lady - (Re-released in 1989)
- May I Kiss You on the Lips, Miss Sandra
- Love, Love and Love
- Shogun Assassin (1980) (dubbing voice for US version)
- Nice Dreams (1981)
- The King of Comedy (1983)
- The House of God (1984)
- Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird (1985)
- The Whoopee Boys (1986)
- Casual Sex? (1988)
- Track 29 (1988)
- Heavy Petting (1989) (documentary)
- Without You I'm Nothing (1990)
- Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991) (documentary)
- Hudson Hawk (1991)
- Inside Monkey Zetterland (1992)
- Sandra Bernhard: Confessions of a Pretty Lady (1994) (documentary)
- Dallas Doll (1994)
- Unzipped (1995) (documentary)
- A Hundred and One Nights of Simon Cinema (1995)
- The Reggae Movie (1995) (documentary)
- Catwalk (1996) (documentary)
- Museum of Love (1996) (short subject)
- The Apocalypse (1997)
- Plump Fiction (1997)
- One Hell of a Guy (1998) (voice only)
- Exposé (1998)
- An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1998)
- Somewhere in the City (1998)
- Wrongfully Accused (1998)
- I Woke Up Early the Day I Died (1998)
- Hecules: Zero to Hero (1999) (voice) (direct-to-video)
- Playing Mona Lisa (2000)
- Dinner Rush (2000)
- The Third Date (2003) (short subject)
- The N-Word (2004) (documentary)
- The Easter Egg Adventure (2004) (voice)
- Searching for Bobby D (2005)
- Twenty Dollar Drinks (2006) (short subject)
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