Not long after I came out, I was invited to a gay friend’s house to watch a movie that he said would have me laughing so hard that I’d pee my pants. How could I resist an invitation like that? The movie was Without You I’m Nothing, based on out comedian Sandra Bernhard’s much acclaimed one-woman-show of the same name.
I didn’t get it.
Bernhard ranted and raved and did odd non-impressions of celebrities and fake interviews with people I didn’t recognize, being a shiny new lesbian and all.
The tape ended with Bernhard draped in an American flag wearing nothing but a patriotic g-string and pasties, dancing to Prince’s Little Red Corvette. Not only were my pants dry, but I also felt totally stupid surrounded by gay men doubled over in laughter tears.
All these years later, Bernhard still confounds me much of the time. She often seems to be one step over the line between funny and not. Other times I think she’s brilliant and hilarious — and I revel in her outrageousness.
So, I’m hoping for a video of the 20-year revival of Without You I’m Nothing, which she will perform in New York City on June 10, to see how I respond to her act now.
Bernhard spoke to WWD about the show, which contains quite a bit of new material.
"There have been a lot of changes in the last 20 years. I have a 10-year-old daughter. So, I talk about being a mother. Technology. Whatever’s in the moment.
What’s not in the moment for Bernhard, who turns 54 Saturday, is much interest in contemporary women performers, even though she understands where they’re coming from.
[Americans] want their performers totally stripped down and vulnerable so they can go "look at that idiot." I can’t say that these are great times for young artists. There’s no longevity. Lady Gaga? I just don’t see any of the stuff lasting for very long.
What about comedians who do potty humor, like Sarah Silverman?
She’s fine. She suits her generation. But I want to see something else … I’ve always been more drawn to Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell and Chrissie Hynde and Tina Turner and Nina Simone. You sat there and it was like you were watching theater because they were so committed.
Bernhard’s own level of commitment has changed in recent years. Shortly after she had Cicely, she met her partner Sara Switzer. The two have been together for nine years.
A happy family life certainly hasn’t blunted Bernhard’s edge. But she is quite happy to give up one source of comedic outrage: the administration.
This is how I feel about it: If I have to trade 20 minutes of material for a world of peace, I’ll be glad to sacrifice it. After eight years of the Bush administration, I’d be thrilled never to have to mention any of those people’s names again. When comedians have run out of material on that level, it’s a healthy sign.
Are you a Sandra Bernhard fan? What do you think of her brand of comedy?