Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

I'm Still Here ... Damn It!

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

I'm Still Here ... Damn It!

Article excerpt

Ever since she was a kid, Sandra Bernhard had dreamed of being on Broadway--but not as Sandra Bernhard. "I didn't expect it to be in my own show; I always expected to be in a more traditional Broadway musical," says the renegade 43-year-old performer and writer, whose one-woman off-Broadway hit, I'm Still Here...Damn It! opens at Broadway's Booth Theatre this October. "But I think my show is probably the millennium's answer to Broadway musicals as I knew them growing up. It's certainly original, and very few musicals push the boundaries and the limits of freshness anymore."

Freshness, for more than just its standard meaning, is an apt description for Bernhard and her stage work. She ventures where few other comedians tread, stitching together scripted routines with improv and "Is she serious?" renditions of classic pop songs and original tunes (cowritten with musical director Mitch Kaplan). She also loves to confound notions of sexuality, openly talking about girlfriends in her shows but refusing to be pegged as a lesbian ("I'm never going to commit to anything that didactic," she says). On the other end of freshness, that wide, full-lipped mouth of hers can get as rude as it comes, delivering withering commentary on pop icons from Courtney Love to ex-friend Madonna.

Miami club owner and former Bernhard girlfriend Ingrid Casares recently placed a skewer of her own; she was quoted in the July 27 issue of New York magazine as saying that I'm Still Here...Damn It! is "based on putting a lot of people down and joking about their misery. It provoked a lot of anxiety for me."

"If somebody's uncomfortable about the irony of celebrity, that says a lot about where they're at," says Bernhard with her engaging, slow-forming smile. She could probably cut deeper here, but she stops short.

A recent press release suggests the addition of "perhaps a newfound gentleness" to her repertoire, which Bernhard chalks up to experience and artistic growth ("The anger thing, the smartass thing, always worked, but I'm better than that now"). Others might attribute her toned-down approach to her ongoing practice of the system of Jewish mysticism known as cabala (the door of her Spanish-style San Fernando Valley home is covered with Hebrew meditations). Or they'll figure she's been softened by motherhood, having given birth to curly-haired daughter Cicely on the Fourth of July, an event that Bernhard didn't talk about even as she appeared big-bellied onstage in skintight designer garb. …

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