Sandra Bernhard is ready to end another big year, and looks to begin the next one on a high note with her annual Dec. 26 run of shows at Joe’s Pub, culminating with a New Year’s Eve blowout.
This year she’s borrowing from Bernie Sanders’ campaign slogan in titling her show Feel the Bernhard.
“Every year I struggle to come up with something new, and after a while I run out of ideas,” she says. “So Feel the Bernhard was an epiphany—but the show’s not that political: People want to be entertained for the holidays, and I cover a wide swath of topics.”
But this year Bernhard actually considered not doing the show—which seamlessly mixes comedic monologues with song.
“After last year I thought, ‘I can’t do this again!’” she says. “There’s always another song to sing, but it’s hard to try to write a whole new show and make it work comedically and culturally, and make a statement. And I can’t just phone that s**t in!”
But she realized that her daily Sandyland radio show for SiriusXM, which launched in September, has proven to be a workshop of sorts in that she comes up with plenty of new and fun stuff, especially when she extemporizes during the first few minutes of each show.
“I have a lot to draw on, and I realized I got to do this—and it came together and I’m pleased,” she notes of the Joe’s Pub return. “And you know me: I don’t rehearse! The music is rehearsed, and I can memorize some stuff and look at notes—but I can’t just stand in front of a mirror and do it. So the first time I actually do it is opening night.”
“And Joe’s Pub is like a lab anyway,” continues Bernhard, who will be backed again at the club by her band the Flawless Zircons. “It doesn’t need to be polished and perfect: People like to see a work in progress that’s smart and filled with fun turns and twists.”
And while she’s always opinionated, her focus will stay positive.
“I’m always worried about the state of the world because there’s so much to worry about,” she acknowledges. “But I’m an optimist and believe that you can change and take control. It’s not always easy—and it’s easy for me to say—but it’s better than saying it’s a s**t show and give up! That’s not who I am.”
Sandyland, meanwhile, continues full speed ahead.
“I feel like it’s picking up steam and people are getting to know about it,” she says. “We have everyone from downtown performers who are off the grid to Dick Cavett, Gloria Steinem, Patti LaBelle, Patty Smyth. It’s all over the place, and great fun.”
Indeed, sports fan Bernhard just had on her fellow SiriusXM air personality Adam Schein, host of Schein on Sports. “[Sandyland‘s] fun and freewheeling and goes from one end of the spectrum to the next,” she says.
Looking ahead to 2016, Bernhard has already lined up some guest acting spots on Hulu’s Julie Klausner-created comedy series Difficult People, and expects to return to Brooklyn Nine-Nine and a new arc as Gina’s eccentric mother Darlene Linetti.
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