Following a sold-out run at Downtown L.A.’s REDCAT just this past August, renaissance woman Sandra Bernhard returns with Sandrology, a journey through the world of contemporary pop culture, politics and celebrity. As always, don’t expect Bernhard to hold back—whether she’s ranting about reality television rotting the brains of our young ones or flaunting her vocal chops in front of her high-octane rock band. She describes REDCAT as “the quintessential groovy L.A. venue,” remarking, “it all happens as I am driving down the Hollywood Freeway and exit Downtown. Suddenly, I have arrived and it feels like home, and then all my friends appear and I never want to leave.” From what Sandra tells us, you’ll never want to leave either. Sandrology runs for (a recently extended) 11 nights, and it’s sure to be one of the hottest tickets in town. Read on to see what one of our favorite comediennes has been up to—and her pressing concerns for the survival of mankind.
How’re things over on the East Coast?
Things on the East Coast are great. It’s springtime, a little cool, but no complaints. We’re moving slowly into summer and all the good things.
The press release for your new show describes you as “the wry and sometimes wicked Sandra Bernhard.” I thought that was amazing.
Oh god, they crack me up with their descriptions. I just sorta roll with the punches, because you can’t really describe yourself that well—it’s very pretentious. So if someone wants to call me wry, it’s OK. ‘Sandi on rye’—that always works.
Are you “wry and sometimes wicked” at home with the family as well?
No, not at all. I’m a totally different person onstage than I am at home. I mean, who wants to see me at home onstage—how hideous and boring would that be? Of course there are elements—the intimacy and the honesty. I think I’m always honest, whether I’m onstage or off—that’s true. But I’m a performer, an entertainer, and when I go see someone I love perform, I expect them to give me the best of themselves and something that I wouldn’t get to see at home, because you’re onstage—it’s exciting and glamorous, and you want to see that kind of energy from a performer. I really like to give people the best of me when I’m performing.
Let’s talk about your new show, Sandrology, which started out as a weekly component of Andy Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live show on Bravo. How did you parlay the TV segment into this new stage show?
It’s really not, to be honest with you. We just took the title. Honestly, I took what I was doing with Andy Cohen from this stage show. I’ve always been a kind of pop culture commentator and curator, and so I just sort of boiled it down to two very quick minutes, which is what they gave me, and tried the best I could with those minutes to do what I do onstage in an hour and 45 minutes. So it’s the other way around. It’s really not based on what I do with Andy Cohen. [The Watch What Happens Live segment] is based on what I’ve always done onstage. What you’re going to see when you come see me live is the real, extended, long-play version of those two minutes.
Are you going to continue doing the segment on Andy Cohen’s show?
No, I’m not going to continue doing it, because that network is really geared toward the Housewives franchise, and Andy’s show was really created to serve the network. It’s an infomercial. Andy wanted to do something different and bring me on. It was an experiment, and I think my audience tuned in and liked it. I think the people who are hardcore Bravo watchers—you know, from small towns in Idaho—didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about.
Andy was really cool and wanted it to work, and the great thing about it is I have a great reel from doing it, and I will definitely be doing it somewhere else, but it’s a half-hour show. I wouldn’t have wanted to continue doing it in those confines, because I couldn’t really do anything.
During the first installment of Sandrology on Andy’s show, you mistakenly outed Kirstie Alley as a lesbian, which was hilarious.
[Laughs] It was supposed to be Kristy McNichol. I tweeted with Kirstie. She loved it, of course, then we did a whole funny thing back and forth on Twitter about—you know, since we’re lovers—where we’re going on vacation. She really got it and thought it was very funny.
Do you consider yourself a pop culture junkie? I know you’ve described yourself as a pop culture anthropologist.
I don’t think I’m a junkie. It’s more out of concern for the survival of mankind [Laughs]—and more and more every day. For instance, last night my girlfriend and I were channel surfing and came across Toddlers and Tiaras. We were commenting that 10 years ago when they did that documentary that was on HBO about little girls in beauty pageants, everyone was horrified and deeply concerned. And now, 10 years later, it’s one of a couple different weekly shows about little kids who are forced to basically prostitute themselves between 2 and 10 years old. It’s shocking, and nobody seems the least bit concerned about the children. It’s all about the mothers and how disappointed and heartbroken they are when their daughters aren’t the Krispy Krunch crown winner. It’s sick and demented. And all the men that are there are either pedophiles or pervs or freaks, and we wonder why our society is in the shitter? Look what we’re doing to our little girls.
Tell our readers what they can expect from the new show.
Well, I gave you a little sample right now—a mini-rant. [Laughs] There will be many mini-rants, going off on things I find disturbing in pop culture, things I find shocking politically. All interwoven with personal anecdotal stories about people that inspire and influence me, all wrapped up with great songs with my rocking band. It’s a real night of intimacy and honesty—and great entertainment.
You were actually just here in L.A. last August with I Love Being Me, Don’t You? and now we’re getting the world premiere of Sandrology. Why choose L.A. to premiere the new show?
Well, because I’m coming back to L.A. and they wanted me back at REDCAT. [Laughs] I’m always writing new material and I’m always honing my material. I really don’t consider this a world premiere, but an extension of all my shows. I feel like when I look back at the 25-30 years I’ve been doing one-woman shows, there’s a continuity—a continuum—that runs throughout all of them.
Yes, they’re new shows, there’s new material, but the real core of it is where we’re at in the world and the evolution of culture. The show isn’t 100 percent new, but it’s a lot of new stuff. I’m back by popular demand—that’s more the point. The music’s different, there are new songs, there are surprises and I feel like even if someone has seen a piece before, people want to see pieces again and again. There are things that people beg me to do that I haven’t done in years. I’m always creating new stuff and still giving a little bit of what people want from the vintage drawer.
I recently watched Unzipped, the 1995 Isaac Mizrahi documentary in which you appeared. What do you remember about that experience?
Well, it’s really about what I remember about that whole time. Fashion was more insider-y. When you went to a fashion show, it was because you either were friends with the designer or you were actually from a magazine or a buyer from a store, and fashion was about making money and selling to stores, and the retail and wholesale, and designers who were on a one-track trajectory, which was designing clothes, not ending up on reality shows or trying to sell crap on HSN. The world has totally changed. Now anyone can design—if they want, they can design on their computer, and all of a sudden everyone’s a designer and everyone’s a star. All the lines are blurred, and very few people have the talent to back it up. The great designers—they can cut a pattern, they can sew a pattern by hand. They know everything about fabric, about dimension. Unless you’ve gone and studied it, and this is your passion, like any great artist, you’re just another, you know, plebian. It’s another sickening aspect of reality television.
What are your thoughts on Project Runway?
I don’t have any thoughts on it. It doesn’t interest me. I was a judge on it one season for one of the episodes, and it’s just all these people crammed into this situation. Some of them might have talent, and they figure what have they got to lose. Some of them have no talent at all. So much of it is personality-driven. I frankly think most of the personalities that win out are not necessarily appealing.
Have you given any thought to the fashion you’ll be sporting here in L.A. during the run of Sandrology?
There are a few different things I’ll be bringing, and I may mix it up night to night, but I never like to give that away because it’s always part of the fun. It might be Ralph Rucci again, it could be a little bit of Rag & Bone. There are a lot of different people who dress me, and I like to mix it up.
Sandrology plays at REDCAT May 30-June 10. General admission tickets are $50 and available for purchase in-person at the box office, by phone at (213) 237-2800 or online at redcat.org. REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., Downtown L.A.