By Thom Jennings
Niagara Gazette — On Friday, groundbreaking comedian, author and actor Sandra Bernhard brings her latest live show entitled, “I Love Being Me, Don’t You?” to the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda. Bernhard’s acting resume includes a memorable performance as Masha in the critically acclaimed movie, “The King of Comedy,” and as network television’s first openly gay character, Nancy Bartlett on the sitcom “Roseanne.”
In addition to her other talents, Bernhard is an accomplished singer, and music is an integral part of her show. In North Tonawanda, she will have company onstage.
“I’m coming with my very talented pianist, Jeremy Siskind. He’s one of these famous jazz pianists that have won all kinds of awards. It will be very groovy,” Bernhard said during recent phone interview.
Since I primarily cover music, I wondered what songs fans can expect to hear during her performance.
“I never tell people what I am going to play. There is a lot of setup involved and the music punctuates the show. I cover a lot of styles from rock to blues to Broadway, it’s very eclectic.”
Bernhard began her career in Los Angeles in the 1970’s. At first, she considered a career in music, but fate sent in a different direction.
“When I went to L.A music was my first love and I kind of got sidetracked into comedy because I was funny at the same time. I guess there is a part of me that wishes I had just done music and had a band so I could just write songs. But I get to do both, and on my own terms. The hybrid of the two that I do is unusual, people are always pleasantly surprised I can sing as well as tell my stories.” Bernhard said.
It’s tough not to label legendary even though she has influenced a generation of comedians, male and female, since by all appearances she is nowhere near the twilight of her career.
“I’m always in the middle of it, I’m not the type of person that ponders where I have come from, I always have to move forward. What is life and where do things sort of drop off? I think it’s partially in your control and partially out of your control, but for the things that are in my control I am vibrant and moving. I just keep meeting new people and finding life to be totally fascinating, and I am so glad to be in the thick of it.”
Most writers can’t help but to note that Bernhard’s appearance hasn’t changed much over the years.
“I work really hard at staying in shape, I am a road warrior, I carry my own stuff and hoist my own bags. It’s not for vanity, it’s just for my own health. Even when you go on the road for a couple of weeks it’s just brutal, and I’m not Beyonce, I don’t have twenty people carrying all my stuff for me.”
While her appearance hasn’t changed much since she played an openly gay character on television, attitudes towards homosexuality have evolved considerably.
“In my (fourteen-year old) daughter’s generation, kids are gay in high school already. When I was in high school, you wouldn’t say you were gay, people might know you were gay but you didn’t label it because it wasn’t in the sensibility. Now it’s a ‘whatever, he’s gay,’ and it’s such a toss away it’s great.”