Sandra Bernhard returns with her new solo show, Feel the Bernhard | Comedy | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Sandra Bernhard returns with her new solo show, Feel the Bernhard

“I like to keep people on their toes and surprised.”

Sandra Bernhard’s new touring show is called Feel the Bernhard. But at the veteran comedian’s two Nov. 12 performances at Rivers Casino, don’t expect to hear much about politics.

For one thing, lately Bernhard airs topical commentary mostly on her Sirius XM Radio show, Sandyland, now in its second year. “It’s turned out to be really fun,” says Bernhard, who’d never done radio before. The loose variety format suits her. “Tiny, funny quotidian things that happen in my everyday life, I have an immediate outlet for it,” she says by phone from her home in New York City. “And great conversations with every kind of imaginable interesting person, from actors to fashion people to musicians to artists.”

Moreover, Feel the Bernhard, the latest of her cabaret-style performances dating to her edgy, landmark late-1980s show Without You, I’m Nothing, is fairly structured. “All my shows are a real blend of stories, anecdotes, personal experiences, sort of a travelogue in terms of where I’ve been and what’s going on in the country,” she says. She works with a three-piece band: “It’s all woven together with great songs that I curate and I think do really interesting versions of, and that I think help tell the whole story.”

And while there’s room for improv, she won’t divulge any song titles: “I like to keep people on their toes and surprised.”

When she rose to fame following her memorable role in Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1983), Bernhard’s live audience was heavily gay. Today, “My audience has broadened,” she says. “I think people have opened up. I think the world’s very different — and in many ways, so much better! And unfortunately, that doesn’t always get the focus it deserves.”

The famously caustic Bernhard, 61, says she has changed, too. “When you’re 20 and you’re performing, you’re addressing a lot of insecurities and things you haven’t resolved yet,” she says. “And as you mature as a person, and as you get some mileage behind you in the rear-view mirror, you’re able to be a well-rounded, more eclectic performer.”

Of course, Bernhard will be here just four days after Election Day. So she’ll have to say something about the results. Interviewed in mid-October, and anticipating a Clinton win, she said, “I’ll be there to celebrate.”

Ephemeral art made at Chalk Fest
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Ephemeral art made at Chalk Fest

By Pam Smith