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Sandra Bernhard (born June 6, 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. She is also known for her relationship with Madonna during the late 1980s. Bernhard is number 97 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest standups of all time.


Bernhard has often addressed her childhood in interviews and within the context of her stand-up comedy. She was born in Flint, Michiganmarker, the daughter of Jeanette and Jerome Bernhard. She has three older brothers. Her family moved to Scottsdale, Arizonamarker when she was 10.

Of her Jewish 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 on a kibbutz in Israelmarker. She moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19. During that time she made ends meet working as a manicurist in a high-end salon.

On July 4, 1998 she had her daughter Cicely Yasin Bernhard via caesarean section.


Early career

Bernhard became a popular staple at The Comedy Storemarker. As her popularity as a comedian 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 unsuccessful album version was released. Bernhard appeared in a variety of small 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 in 1988 which played at The Orpheum Theatre. In 1990 it was turned into a film, also called Without You I'm Nothing; and into a double album, of the same name. The film was mostly filmed on location in 1989 in The Cocoanut Grove located in The Ambassador Hotelmarker.

Career after 1990

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; forays into mainstream films such as Hudson Hawk and Dallas Doll were all bombs. Her stand-up and one-woman shows continued to be popular, however, and in 1991 she released her first studio album, entitled Excuses For Bad Behavior . It was not a commercial success.

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.

Bernhard returned to Broadway in 1998 with the show I'm Still Here... Damn It!, which was 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. 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. The year 2007 saw the creation of Bernhard's show Plan B from Outer Space. She toured with the show through 2008.

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

Public controversies

In August 2006, Sandra Bernhard served as the spokesperson in a commercial for Make-up Art Cosmetics . In the commercial, promoting PlushGlass lipgloss, Bernhard referred to someone who might not approve of her outspokenness as a "...little freaked out, intimidated, frightened, right-wing Republican thin-lipped bitch". MAC edited the line from the commercial to avoid unintentionally offending some of its customer base.

On September 19, 2008, in an "epithet-laden" performance at Theater J of the Washington DC Jewish Community Center, Bernhard warned Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin that she would be gang-raped by Bernhard's "big black brothers" if she visited Manhattan. Palin had a campaign stop planned in New York City at the time. Bernhard later stated "I certainly wish Gov. Palin no harm. I'd just like her to explain to me how she can hold such outrageous views... and then go back to Alaska". Bernhard also warned Palin to stay away from the Old Testament and referred to Palin's Christianity as "new goyish crappy shiksa funky bullshit!". Bernhard's comments resulted in a decision by Rosie's Place, a Boston women's shelter, to cut her act from its annual fundraiser. Bernhard claimed on her web page that her comments were taken out of context. Later she denied that she had made the comment at all.



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


  • "Everybody's Young"
  • "You Make Me Feel " (#13 U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play)
  • "Manic Superstar"
  • "Phone Sex (Do You Want Me Tonight?)"
  • "On the Runway" (#39 U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play)
  • "Perfection"
  • "Miracle of Lights"
  • "All Around"


  • AT&T Presents Stormy Weather; song "Is That All There Is?"
  • Divas of Dance - Volume 3 (Remixes); song "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)"
  • Breaking For the Holidays; song "Miracle of Lights"

All of the CDs from The Love Machine through Gems... have been cheaply produced CD-Rs, which is commonly what comedians sell at their shows. In 2004 Bernhard re-released special edition albums of I'm Your Woman and Without You I'm Nothing. The re-releases of both included special tracks, as well as several guests to help attract a new audience. Bernhard has stated that Excuses for Bad Behavior (Part One) will be re-released in late 2007.

The Smoking Popes recorded a song entitled "Sandra", a tribute to Bernhard, wherein lead singer Josh Caterer professes his obsession with Sandra.



Features: Short Subjects:
  • Museum of Love (1996)
  • The Third Date (2003)
  • Twenty Dollar Drinks (2006)

Television Work


  1. Sandra Bernhard Biography
  2. [1]
  3. New Mom @ 42 comic Sandra Bernhard Speaks
  5. Bernhard Goes Maternal, CBS News, July 8, 1998, last accessed July 1, 2008.
  6. Sandra Bernhard a mom at 42, CNN, July 8, 1998, last accessed July 1, 2008.
  7. [2]
  8. [3] Thrift Shop
  9. Retrieved on 05-11-07
  10. Peter Marks, 'Without You': Bernhard's Acid Reflex, Washington Post, September 12, 2008; Page C01.
  11. Tracy Miller, Sandra Bernhard issues 'gang rape' warning to Sarah Palin, NY Daily News, September 19, 2008.
  12. Entertainment News: Bernhard defends Palin 'gang rape' joke, UPI, September 20, 2008.
  13. Should Sarah Palin come to NY after Sandra Bernhard's warning?, International Business Times, September 19, 2008.
  14. Lynn Crosbie, Memo to Bernhard: If you want to attack Palin, do it like a grown-up, Globe and Mail, September 23, 2008.
  15. Women's Shelter Cuts Bernhard After Gang-Rape Line: Boston women's shelter cancels Sandra Bernhard after gang-rape comment about Sarah Palin, Associated Press, October 1, 2008.
  16. Korin Miller, Sandra Bernhard denies issuing Sarah Palin 'gang rape' warning, Daily News, October 2, 2008.

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