Sandra Bernhard had her first brush with comedy when she started regularly appearing at ‘The Comedy Store’—an American comedy club located in West Hollywood. Her popularity soon grew, and she was eventually scripted as a supporting cast member of ‘The Richard Pryor Show’ in 1977.
She started making several guest appearances in evening talk shows. Her time in the circuit proved successful as she eventually landed a role in a Martin Scorsese movie.
Being cast as Masha in Scorsese’s 1983 movie, ‘The King of Comedy,’ proved to be a breakthrough for Bernhard. Not only did this provide her with a wider audience, she also bagged the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress.
In 1985, the album version of her one-woman show, ‘I’m Your Woman’, was released. She soon gained fame for her brazen critique of celebrity culture and for mocking politicians.
Throughout the 1980s, she appeared in several movies in supporting roles and performed various sketches for television, including ‘The House of God,’ ‘The Whoopee Boys,’ and ‘Track 29.’ During this time, she set out to take her stand-up acts to the next level.
In 1988, she launched the one-woman show, ‘Without You I’m Nothing, with You I’m Not Much Better’. The show opened at the Orpheum Theatre, and in 1990, it was turned into a film. ‘Without You I’m Nothing,’ also inspired the Grammy-nominated album of the same name.
Bernhard appeared regularly on David Letterman’s NBC program. In one of the episodes, she appeared with Madonna, her close friend at the time. Madonna and Bernhard sparked rumors of a relationship, and Bernhard even appeared in Madonna’s film, ‘Truth or Dare’.
She got another lucky break in 1991 when she was cast as Nancy Bartlett in the sitcom, ‘Roseanne’. This proved to be a hit, and she appeared in 33 episodes between 1991 and 1997. It was her longest running show.
Her character Nancy was even more special to her because she became one of the first actresses to openly portray a lesbian character on screen. It is considered one of her most memorable roles till date.
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Bernhard released her first studio album, ‘Excuses for Bad Behavior (Part One),’ in 1991. The album was co-written and produced by Mitch Kaplan. The album includes Bernhard singing originals and standards, in addition to performing comedy sketches. She later appeared nude for a Playboy photoshoot.
In 1995, she became the host of Reel Wild Cinema for two seasons. She continued being a part of many films and television series in the 90s. Her most notable works during this period include ‘Hudson Hawk,’ ‘Dallas Doll’ and her appearance in the talk show, ‘Space Ghost Coast to Coast’.
In 1996, she starred in an episode of ‘Highlander: The Series,’ playing a novelist who was writing about the life of the main character. Later, she appeared as herself in an episode of ‘Will & Grace.’ She returned two years later to reprise the same role.
Bernhard made an entrance on Broadway in 1998 with her show, ‘I’m Still Here…Damn It!’ It was recorded as a live comedy album. Her material included comments on Mariah Carey, Courtney Love, technology, relationships, the world of high fashion, and the death of Princess Diana.
She released ‘Excuses for Bad Behavior (Part Two)’ in 2003. Her material included 9/11, Dixie Chicks, and a combination of spoken comedy bits, songs, and pop/ rock music.
A brief hiatus later, Bernhard made a comeback with ‘Everything Bad & Beautiful’, an off-Broadway show in 2006. It was a live show recorded at the Daryl Roth Theater and combined monologues with musical performances. It was a critical success.
In 2007, she created the show, ‘Plan B from Outer Space,’ while her compilation, ‘Breaking for the Holidays’ was released by Breaking Records. She also featured as a guest singer with Dan Zanes on the ‘Family Dance’ album’s ‘Thrift Shop’.
She was offered the role of Miranda Hobbes in ‘Sex and the City,’ but she turned it down, citing the lack of originality in the script and low remuneration. She was later cast in ‘Switched at Birth’ (2013).
In 2015, Bernhard began hosting ‘Sandyland’, her radio show on Sirius XM’s Radio Andy. In this show, she interviews celebrities and speaks to them on a wide range of topics. This show has turned out to be extremely popular.
She continues to regularly appear in movies and TV series, including shows like ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘Will & Grace,’ ‘Law & Order’ and ‘Two Broke Girls.’
Family & Personal Life
Bernhard is openly bisexual and has been a supporter of LGBT rights for a long time. She caused quite a stir when she famously compared Madonna’s ability in bed with Sean Penn’s on ‘The David Letterman Show.’ She alluded that Madonna was better in bed than Sean Penn.
She considers herself deeply spiritual and immerses herself in her Jewish roots. She has confessed that she feels an intense connection to Judaism and has embraced Kabbalah.
She and Madonna were rumored to be lovers, but it was dismissed by Bernard as a publicity stunt, who maintained that they were only close friends. Bernhard later stated that she and Madonna don’t speak anymore.
She has been in a relationship with the writer and Vanity Fair publicist, Sara Switzer, for over two decades. They have a daughter together, Cicely Yasin Bernhard, born in 1998.