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Still Your Woman

Sandra Bernhard rings out 2008 with a few choice words.

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Twenty years after her groundbreaking one-woman show “Without You I’m Nothing” premiered Off Broadway, Sandra Bernhard will take it on the road again in January. It’s been a while, and yet, given the economic parallels between 1988 and now, perhaps it’s the perfect time for a working-class girl from Flint, Michigan, to be mouthing off. And this time, there’s the Internet to aid and abet. “I was doing big crazy things then that I guess would have made me a superstar,” says Bernhard. “What I did then was under the radar—maybe it was on ‘Page Six’ or in ‘Random Notes’ in Rolling Stone. That was the edgiest [coverage] you could get. Now basically everybody’s a star. I don’t know how good that is, or how bad that is.”

Yes, they were quainter times, but saying she was performing under the radar is equally quaint. Sandra Bernhard made a high-profile career out of pummeling the radar, shaping it into her caustic, sexually charged image. Beginning December 26, she returns to Joe’s Pub for six nights with her “Layaway Show: Buy Now! You’ll Pay for It Later!”—which is essentially “things I find interesting at the moment.” Two of those things are named Rachel: “I absorb all these factoids and brilliance from Rachel Maddow,” says Bernhard of the MSNBC host. “Then I watch Rachel Zoe on Bravo and it all comes dripping out the other side of my head. It’s a fun clash of worlds.” She might veer off into Proposition 8 (“I’m sad it was passed. On the other hand, it’s galvanized the gay community in ways they haven’t been since the initial aids movement”), then sing a song, like her hilarious and touching reworking of Cheap Trick’s “The Flame,” dedicated to her daughter, Cicely, who’s 10. One of the lyrics: “Don’t wake up when you’re 17 years old and break your mother’s heart and run away with some pimply faced, uncircumcised punk.” Is this a serious concern? “My concern for Cicely is that she’s open to people and doesn’t turn into a snob,” says Bernhard, who lives with her daughter and girlfriend in West Chelsea. “I see so many kids with that bored, deadpan, I’ve-seen-it-already-done-it-already look on their faces, and I want to slap them.” So is Cicely a chip off the old block? “She’s this sort of hippie. She’s very into the Beatles. I was into the Stones.”

Sandra Bernhard
Joe’s Pub.
December 26–31.


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