Sandra Bernhard Interview

Big-mouthed comedian Sandra Bernhard has tackled a lot in her 30-year career. Now itâ??s time for global domination.

Sandra Bernhard, whoâ??s been targeting celebrity culture and politics with a biting snap for over 30 years, always puts it all out there. We mean that in every which way â?? remember the nude 1992 Playboy pictorial? Now she has a different platform to do so: Twitter, where she rants on drug companies, plugs her new world-music LP â?? _Whatever It Takes_, out Aug. 25 â?? and talks booze with gal pal and fellow queer actress, Sarah Paulson.
When the comic pacesetterâ??s not tirelessly Tweeting, sheâ??s performing â??Without You Iâ??m Nothingâ? shows during a 20th anniversary revival and pitching a New York-set project she co-wrote with Rip Torn’s daughter.
From her New York pad, Bernhard chatted about her world music album, Twitter freaks and her â??weirdâ? life.

I just started following you on Twitter â?? and now I feel bad.
I made you feel bad?

Yeah, because youâ??re a more diligent tweeter than me (laughs).
Itâ??s summertime â?? Iâ??ve got a little more time on my hands than usual. Even when Iâ??m busy, I run to the computer during the day and try to remind people of little things and ideas. Itâ??s a nice creative outlet, but donâ??t let it make you feel bad (laughs).

Do you ever get any weirdos sending you messages?
Iâ??ve gotten maybe a handful of negative off-the-wall responses, but I have to say, all in all, considering how out there I am, everybodyâ??s been very cool. If it gets too weird, Iâ??ll just jump off.

The new album is very liberating. I felt like I took a trip around the world without having to get on a plane.
Thatâ??s kind of the point of all of my work, but musically, this album kind of captures that without saying it so didactically. Itâ??s just there in the music and the beats and the rhythms and the lyrics. Iâ??m really excited about it.

Why did you decide to make a foray into world music?
It wasnâ??t really my idea. Ted Mason, the producer and co-writer, approached me. He wanted to do an album like this, and he was looking for somebody who had my kind of outlook on the world and my kind of view, and he said, â??Would you be into doing this?â? And I said, â??Yeah, of course.â? We started collaborating. Heâ??s a very creative person, obviously, and he has access to all these people, all these world musicians. I mean, off the top of my head, itâ??s not the first kind of music Iâ??m attracted to, but I feel like we kind of blurred the lines. Itâ??s not so heavily African or Latin, but it has a lot of those influences.

Tell me what it was like working with Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders on â??All Around.â?
Weâ??re very good friends, but she happened to be in town and we were in the studio those days. Chrissieâ??s like hardcore. Sheâ??s a no-nonsense, no-B.S. kind of person.


Just like you then?
Yeah. Well, she makes me look like a lightweight, to be honest with you (laughs).

You mention shopping in Kazakhstan on â??Weâ??re on Our Wayâ? â?? do they have good deals there?
(Laughs) Itâ??s just about stopping along the way and experiencing all the different cultures. Iâ??m sure they do. I actually havenâ??t been to Kazakhstan. I can imagine they probably have a few good bargains.

Assuming youâ??ve been all over the place, which locations inspired you for this album?
Actually, I havenâ??t been in as many places as Iâ??d like to. The most exotic place I think Iâ??ve been to is Morocco, which Iâ??ve been to three times. Itâ??s my favorite super-exotic locale, but I havenâ??t been to the major parts of Africa and I really havenâ??t been that far east, either. Iâ??ve got a lot of traveling to do. I put my imagination to good work, but certainly I know a lot of people from various experiences who have been around, and what I donâ??t know, they fill me in on.

A lot of people who think world music think Yanni.
(Laughs) Thatâ??s really kind of the Dairy Queen of world music. I think world music has influenced everybody â?? hip-hop and rap and all of the R&B artists, thereâ??s a lot of that in there. Without African and world music, there wouldnâ??t be the American kind of soul/R&B sound. Now itâ??s everywhere.

The last time I saw you live, when you closed with a song, I recall a sea of surprised faces. Are a lot of people shocked that youâ??re a trained singer?
I think less and less. Iâ??ve been doing it now for so long. I was on the Lilith Fair Tour. Iâ??ve gotten to collaborate with a lot of people, like Sheryl Crow. People who donâ??t know my work so completely, they always say, â??Oh, I didnâ??t know you could sing.â? Theyâ??re happy to hear it. I always get good feedback.

I remember watching you perform with The Dixie Chicksâ?? Natalie Maines in a YouTube clip.
Sheâ??s another great friend, and I think she has one of the greatest voices in the world. Sheâ??s the kind of person that opens her mouth, and itâ??s there. Sheâ??s a big talent.

I can see why youâ??d get along.
(Laughs) Yeah. Well, obviously, sheâ??s another very, very outspoken and ballsy person.

So how about that Mariah Carey â?? I know that you and her are BFFs (laughs).
I happen to love her.

Really? Youâ??re always ragginâ?? on her.
Oh, sure. You canâ??t deny Mariahâ??s talent. Sheâ??s eccentric, and anytime someone is really willing to put them self out there, for me, itâ??s an opportunity to find an ironic, funny way of talking about them. But thereâ??s nothing about Mariah that I find offensive; I just think sheâ??s crazy and funny and interesting.

Check out her â??Obsessedâ? video, where sheâ??s an Eminem lookalike.
Oh, Mariah. Sheâ??s a trip. I know Eminem gives her a hard time. We Michiganders donâ??t pull any punches.

Whatâ??s different about doing â??Without You Iâ??m Nothingâ? now versus two decades ago?
The Internet and the kind of exposure you get now as opposed to the â??80s, itâ??s so different. The whole world is different. The material thatâ??s from the original show still holds up because itâ??s so personal, but the things I talk about around it obviously are more contemporary. And when you see the difference between what I talk about then and now, I donâ??t know â?? the world has just moved very quickly, and continues to kind of surprise me at different turns.

It surprises everyone.
Itâ??s a lot to take in, and I donâ??t think itâ??s easy for everybody to do. I think thatâ??s why so many people are freaked out. Itâ??s just a weird time.

Sure is. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Great talking to you, Chris. Keep twittering! (Laughs)

Iâ??ll try to keep up with you (laughs).
Just donâ??t wear yourself out.

By Chris Azzopardi

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