For excusive backstage photographs, view the slideshow "Beyond the Stage with Sandra Bernhard at the Orpheum."
Sandra Bernhard used to scare me. She has one of those faces that moves too easily into the universal look of the MGOC — mean girl on campus. Like she wants to punch you out and kick your Partridge Family lunch box across the playground because it annoys her. Actresses up for such roles would do well to study the way her upper lip snarls and the way she casts her eyes downward in royal disgust.
Though she’s extremely polite and forthcoming when you interview her, she will not laugh at any of your attempts to be funny.
It was 20 years ago when she first proclaimed, “I have one of those hard-to-believe faces” at the beginning of her landmark one-woman show Without You I’m Nothing. She’s bringing it back for a special revival that will also include plenty of new material.
So, Sandra, are you still nothing without us?
Yes, of course! More than ever.
What old chestnuts are you dragging out?
I have to do “Me & Mrs. Jones,” of course. Some others.
(At this point another phone rings; she is heard saying, “Where are you? I can’t talk; I’m doing an interview. See you later. Love you.”)
Who was that?
That was my daughter. But I have to point out that that was not her cell phone she was calling on. She does not have her own cell phone. I’m very anti kids having cell phones.
Some people misconstrued your recent satirical bit on Sarah Palin getting “gang-raped by my big black brothers” if she enters Manhattan. Thank God that’s over, but what do you think Sarah Palin would think about your show?
I think she would want to seem to be hip enough to get it, but she’s so painfully not cool that I don’t think she would get me.
Have you been to Alaska? I have, and it explains a lot about her.
I did an AIDS benefit up there. We drove and drove through the barren tundra. It was like being on the moon, honey.
I love the way you said “barren tundra” — like the NFL Films guy, except for the “honey” part. (She does not laugh at this, but does say “that’s funny” when I share a story of being in a bar in Wasilla, Alaska, and paying for a beer with a $20 bill. The bartender looked at the money and barked, “So, big-city folk waving your big bills in the air.”)
What has been a career highlight for you?
I’m still waiting for it [laughs]. I see all these little markers along the road: King of Comedy, Roseanne, all my live shows; getting to perform with people I love, like Chrissie Hynde.
If Sarah Silverman can have a show, why can’t you? Would you ever do a reality show?
God, no. About 15 years ago I pitched a show to HBO about a day in the life of Sandra Bernhard and the woman running the network back then said she didn’t get it. I’m trying to get a show right now with Rip Torn, where I play his daughter. It’s a great New York story.
What will you do for fun in L.A.?
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There’s a new Thai vegan place near me. It’s called Lotus something. They have these vegan shrimp. I still have my house in the Valley. I have lots of friends. I have a great affinity for L.A. You either get L.A. or you don’t.
You should go see Lovelace.
Yeah? Cool. I will.
Sandra Bernhard performs Without You I’m Nothing at the Orpheum, 842 S. Broadway, dwntwn.; Fri., Nov. 21, 8 p.m.; $52 & $67. (213) 480-3232.