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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Sandra Bernard talks navigating Hollywood


    Courtesy of Sandra Bernhard

    Sandra Bernhard, a former Scottsdale resident and woman of many talents, is coming to Tucson on her “Sandyland” one-woman show tour Friday at 8 p.m. at the Rialto Theatre. A comedian, actress, musician, author and mother, Bernhard has made her mark on the world and isn’t even close to being done. Having just recently appeared on shows such as “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Switched at Birth,” Bernard has over 30 years of experience in the business. Bernhard agreed to talk to the Daily Wildcat about her career, life and journey from Scottsdale to fame.

    Daily Wildcat: You’re an actress, a singer, a comedian — where did it all start for you?

    Bernhard: I knew I wanted to do all this since I was 5 years old. I kind of came into this life knowing that that’s what I was going to do. I moved to [Los Angeles] when I was 18 and started performing when I was 19.

    Did you attend college?

    Actually, I was going to study opera, but I didn’t get into where I wanted to go. I ended up moving to LA, becoming a manicurist in Beverly Hills and started performing at night.

    Where did you go after LA on your journey to making it big?

    I started performing in all these clubs and met people along the way. One of these people, Paul Mooney, a very successful comedian and a writer for Richard Pryor, got myself and Robin Williams on “The Richard Pryor Show,” the short-lived variety show on NBC. That was my first big break that opened a lot of doors for me, and in 1981, I got casted in “The King of Comedy.” That was an award-winning role for me, and after that, I did other films, performed my one-woman shows and was cast in “Roseanne,” which I did for six or seven seasons. I did a talk show, many specials and musical albums, wrote three books, and continue to guest-star on television.

    You played Nancy Bartlett on “Roseanne,” who was the first openly gay character on a network sitcom. What was that like?

    Well, the character started off being married to Arnie, this obnoxious, gross guy, so the whole joke was I got so disgusted by Arnie, that I ran into the arms of a woman. It wasn’t really planned out like, “Oh, we’re going to come up with this groundbreaking gay character.” It just became groundbreaking because it was really funny and interesting and very natural.

    Who is your greatest inspiration?

    A lot of people in my family are creative. My mom was an abstract artist, and my grandmother came from Russia when she was very young, and she was a storyteller. Since I was little, people like Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore and Stevie Nicks inspired me. I just like really audacious performers. I really admire Lena Dunham. I think she’s the next generation of what I started off doing: people who are who they are and are comfortable in their own skin. It’s something I did when I was young, to be somebody who’s not the girl next door.

    So your next stop on your “Sandyland” tour is here in Tucson, but where have you gone before this?

    My tours are sort of ongoing, and my shows evolve. They may be called one thing one year, and by the time the next year happens, I may have almost completely changed material, but there are some things that are the same. It’s like painting a picture, and I keep adding colors.

    Is there anything that fans can expect that are attending your “Sandyland” show here in Tucson?

    This show is very travel-centric. It’s all based on the things that happen when I am on the road and the people I meet. There’s stuff about fashion and my daughter and the things that are unexpected about me being a mother. It’s all wrapped around music. I did some folky stuff, like an original song that we wrote about growing up in Arizona. It all tells this crazy, funny story, and it’s uplifting and introspective.

    Is there anything that you want the audience to take away from the show?

    Try not to judge other people, but if you are going to judge other people, at least be funny about it. Feel like you can do whatever you set your mind to in life; the world is there for the taking, and you can take it as far as you want. So, jump in, and embrace it.


    Follow Victoria Pereira on Twitter.

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