Sandra Bernhard

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Sandra Bernhard
Sandra Bernhard crop.JPG
At the Daryl Roth Theater (NYC), 2006
Born (1955-06-06) June 6, 1955 (age 60)
Flint, Michigan, U.S.
Nationality American
  • Comedian
  • singer
  • actress
  • author
Years active 1970s–present
Partner(s) Tabitha Keegan

Sandra Bernhard (born June 7, 1955) is an American comedian, singer, actress and author. She first gained attention in the late 1970s with her stand-up comedy in which she often bitterly critiques celebrity culture and political figures. Bernhard is number 97 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest standups of all time.[1]

Early life[edit]

Bernhard has often addressed her childhood in interviews and within the context of her stand-up comedy. She was born in Flint, Michigan, the daughter of Jeanette (LaZebnik) and Jerome Bernhard.[2][3] Her parents raised her as a Conservative Jew.[4] She has three older brothers. Her family moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, when she was 10.[5]

Of her family, Bernhard stated in her show Without You I'm Nothing: "My father was a proctologist and my mother was an abstract artist, so that's how I view the world." In the documentary program Girls Who Do: Comedy, she discusses being a funny teenager. After graduating from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, she went to live and volunteer on a kibbutz in Israel. She moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19. During that time she paid her bills by working as a manicurist in a high-end salon.


Bernhard became a staple at the Comedy Store. As her popularity as a comedienne grew she was cast as a supporting player on The Richard Pryor Show in 1977. Guest appearances on evening talk shows followed. Her big break came in 1983 when she was cast by Martin Scorsese to star as stalker and kidnapper Masha in the film The King of Comedy for which she won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress.

She began performing her first one-woman show called I'm Your Woman in 1985, and an album version was released. Bernhard appeared in a variety of tiny film and television roles throughout the 1980s while crafting her stand-up routine into a more performance art oriented show. She launched an Off-Broadway one woman show called Without You I'm Nothing, with You I'm Not Much Better in 1988 which played at the Orpheum Theatre. In 1990 it was turned into a film and a double album of the same name. The film was mostly shot on location in 1989 in the coconut grove at the Ambassador Hotel. A frequent guest on David Letterman's NBC program, it was during the run of 'Without You I'm Nothing, With You I'm Not Much Better' that she appeared with her then-good friend (and rumored lover) Madonna on the show. The two alluded to their romantic relationship and staged a sexy confrontation. They would continue to be friends for several years, with Bernhard even making an appearance in Madonna's movie Truth or Dare.


In 1991, Bernhard began playing the role of Nancy Bartlett on the hit sitcom Roseanne. She appeared in 33 episodes between 1991 and 1997, and was one of the first actresses to portray an openly lesbian recurring character on American television. The role is one of her best known, something she has lamented in her stand-up as being both a blessing and a curse.

In September 1992, Bernhard did a nude pictorial for Playboy. She hosted the USA Network's Reel Wild Cinema for two seasons beginning in 1995. Bernhard continued acting in mostly independent films and TV guest roles and forays into mainstream films such as Hudson Hawk and Dallas Doll. In 1991 she released her first studio album, entitled Excuses For Bad Behavior (Part One).

In 1995, she briefly appeared as a guest in the animated talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast, in an episode titled "Jerk". In 1996, she guest-starred on an episode of Highlander: The Series called "Dramatic License" in which she played a romance novelist writing about the life of the main character. She also appeared (as herself) on Will and Grace in an episode dealing with Will and Grace's spuriously bidding on Bernhard's Manhattan apartment in order to become friendly with her and culminates in a diatribe from Bernhard when their ruse is exposed, with obfuscating sounds of a blender (she was having a smoothie made) blotting out supposed obscenities. She returned as herself briefly, two years later.

Bernhard returned to Broadway in 1998 with the show I'm Still Here... Damn It!, recorded for a live comedy album. At that time of the show Bernhard was pregnant. She gave birth to daughter Cicely Yasin Bernhard on July 4, 1998.[6][7] For the next several years she would self-record all of her live shows and release cheaply made CD-R versions which were sold in the lobby of her shows. She continued touring and making smaller films and TV guest appearances.

She returned to New York in 2006 with the Off-Broadway show Everything Bad & Beautiful. The CD Everything Bad & Beautiful was critically lauded as one of her best, released by indie label Breaking Records.[8] The year 2007 saw the creation of Bernhard's show Plan B from Outer Space as well as Indie label upstart Breaking Records release of the compilation "Breaking For the Holidays" where Bernhard co-penned Miracle of Lights with Mitchell Kaplan. She toured "Plan B" through 2008, and performed Miracle of Lights on some morning shows in New York.

Bernhard was a featured guest singer with children's artist Dan Zanes on the Family Dance album's "Thrift Shop".[9]

In an interview with Howard Stern, the comedian revealed that she was originally offered the role of Miranda Hobbes of TV show Sex and the City, but opted out due to the "terrible" original script and low paycheck.[10]

In 2013, the media announced that Sandra Bernhard would be joining the cast of ABC Family's Switched at Birth along with Glee's Max Adler. Sandra would assume the role of an art professor on the Season 3 Opener in January 2014.[11]

Personal life[edit]

On July 4, 1998, Bernhard gave birth to her daughter Cicely Yasin Bernhard, declining to reveal who her father was.[12][13] She is openly bisexual.[14] She is a strong supporter of gay rights.[15]


Bernhard performs classic pop music, jazz, and blues tunes. She has released several albums (combinations of music and comedy).




Year Title Role Notes
1980 Shogun Assassin voice-over in English dub
1981 Cheech & Chong's Nice Dreams Girl Nut
1983 The King of Comedy Masha National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress
1984 The House of God Angel Dutton
1985 Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird Grouch Diner Waitress cameo appearance
1986 The Whoopee Boys extra (uncredited)
1988 Casual Sex? extra (uncredited)
1988 Track 29 Nurse Stein
1989 Heavy Petting Herself documentary
1990 Without You I'm Nothing Herself (also writer)
1991 Madonna: Truth or Dare Herself documentary
1991 Hudson Hawk Minerva Mayflower
1992 Inside Monkey Zetterland Imogene
1994 Sandra Bernhard: Confessions of a Pretty Lady Herself
1994 Dallas Doll Dallas Adair
1995 Unzipped Herself documentary
1995 One Hundred and One Nights La première quêteuse
1995 The Reggae Movie Herself documentary
1995 Catwalk Herself documentary
1997 Lover Girl Marci Guerra/'Angel'
1997 The Apocalypse J.T. Wayne
1997 Plump Fiction Bunny Roberts
1998 An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn Ann Glover
1998 Exposé Janet
1998 Wrongfully Accused Dr. Fridley
1998 Somewhere in the City Betty
1998 I Woke Up Early The Day I Died Sandy Sands/Professional Mourner and Stripper
1999 Hercules: Zero to Hero Cassandra (voice only)
2000 One Hell of a Guy God (voice only)
2000 Playing Mona Lisa Bibi Carlson Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Stony Brook Film Festival
2000 Dinner Rush Jennifer Freely
2001 Zoolander Herself cameo appearance
2004 The N-Word Herself documentary
2004 The Easter Egg Adventure Claralyne Cluck (voice only)
2005 Searching for Bobby D Sherri Dansen
2009 Dare Dr. Serena Mohr
2010 See You in September Charlotte
2011 Looking for Lenny Herself documentary


Year Title Role Notes
1977 The Richard Pryor Show Featured Performer canceled after 4 episodes
1991-1997 Roseanne Nancy Bartlett recurring role (33 episodes)
1992 Sandra After Dark, with Your Hostess, Sandra Bernhard Herself (also co-executive producer) TV film
1992-93 The A-List Herself/Host 1 episode
1994-96 Reel Wild Cinema Herself/Host 22 episodes
1995 Space Ghost Coast to Coast Herself 1 episode
1995 Freaky Friday Frieda Debny TV film
1995 The Larry Sanders Show Herself 2 episodes
1996 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Herself 1 episode
1996 The Late Shift Herself TV film
1997 Superman: The Animated Series Gsptlsnz 1 episode
1997 Ally McBeal Caroline Poop 2 episodes
1998-99 Hercules Cassandra (voice only) 45 episodes
1999 Sandra Bernhard - I'm Still Here..Damn It! Herself (also writer) TV film
2000 Sopranos Gina/D-Girl 1 episode
2001-02 Will and Grace Herself 2 episodes
2001 Sandra Bernhard: Giving Them Lip Herself TV movie
2001-03 The Sandra Bernhard Experience Herself/Host unknown episodes
2003 Law and Order: Special Victims Unit Priscilla Chaney 1 episode
2003 Girlfriends Marcia 1 episode
2004 Silver Lake Sheila Fontana unsold pilot
2005 Crossing Jordan Roz Framus 2 episodes
2005 The L Word Charlotte Birch 5 episodes
2005-06 The Queer Edge Herself/Co-Host 26 episodes
2007 Las Vegas Margo Poon 1 episode
2007 The New Adventures of Old Christine Audrey 1 episode
2009 Head Case Herself 1 episode
2011 Roseanne's Nuts Herself 1 episode
2011 Hot in Cleveland Nan 1 episode
2012 GCB Debby Horowitz 1 episode
2012 DTLA Carla 3 episodes
2013 The Neighbors Ms. Porsche 1 episode
2014 Switched at Birth Prof. Teresa Ledarsky 4 episodes
2014 You're the Worst Herself 1 episode
2014-15 Brooklyn Nine-Nine Darlene Linetti 3 episodes
2015 2 Broke Girls Joedth 5 episodes

Short Subjects[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1996 Museum of Love Kitty
2003 The Third Date Ola
2006 Twenty Dollar Drinks Star


Year Nominated work Award Category Result
1983 The King of Comedy NSFC Awards Won
1991 Hudson Hawk Golden Raspberry Awards Nominated
1997 Highlander: The Series OFTA Awards
  • Best Guest Actress in a Syndicated Series
2002 Herself GLAAD Media Awards Won
2006 Philadelphia QFest Awards
  • Artistic Achievement Award


  1. ^
  2. ^ Sandra Bernhard Biography
  3. ^ "Jeanette (LaZebnik) Bernhard". 
  4. ^ Iovine, Julie V. (October 22, 1998). "At Home With: Sandra Bernhard; When Baby Talk Makes Good Material". The New York Times. , The New York Times. October 22, 1998
  5. ^
  6. ^ Bernhard Goes Maternal, CBS News, July 8, 1998, last accessed July 1, 2008.
  7. ^ Sandra Bernhard a mom at 42, CNN, July 8, 1998, last accessed July 1, 2008.
  8. ^
  9. ^, Thrift Shop
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Switched at Birth Adds Max Adler and Sandra Bernhard". , TV Fanatic. October 11, 2013
  12. ^; New Mom @ 42 comic Sandra Bernhard Speaks
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Sandra Bernhard: Bisexuality and savage wit". The Independent (London). 22 October 2007. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  15. ^, Interview with Sandra Bernhard by Marianne Schnall. Retrieved October 16, 2012.

External links[edit]