Without You I'm Nothing
Actress, comedian and singer Sandra Bernhard came to fame in the late 1970s performing standup comedy. Performing the one woman show “I'm Your Woman” in 1985, she has since starred in the shows “I'm Still Here ... Damn It” (1998), “The Love Machine” (2000) and “Everything Bad & Beautiful” (2006). On screen, she is perhaps best known for her role of Masha in the film “The King of Comedy” (1983), for which she won a National Society of Film Critics Award, Nancy Bartlett on the ABC hit sitcom “Roseanne” (33 episodes, 1991-1997) and Charlotte Birch on the Showtime drama “The L Word” (5 episodes, 2005). As a singer, Bernhard has released various albums (combinations of comedy and music) since 1985 and contributed to a few compilation albums. She received a Grammy nomination for “Without You I'm Nothing” (1987). The recording was comprised of material from her hit Broadway show of the same name. Some singles the multi talented artist has released includes her version of singer Sylvester James' “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” which peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play in 1994, “On the Runway,” which made the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play, “Perfection” and “All Around.” Bernhard is the recipient of the 2002 Davidson/Valentini Award from the GLAAD Media Awards and the Artistic Achievement Award at the 2006 Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
Bernhard is also a published writer. She released a book of poetry and prose in 1998 called “Confessions of a Pretty Lady.” She also wrote the books “May I Kiss You on the Lips, Miss Sandra” and “Love, Love and Love.”
Bernhard is bisexual. The mother of one, who once posed nude for “Playboy” magazine, has been linked to several names, including Venezuelan actress and fashion model Patricia Velasquez (born on January 31, 1971), Ingrid Casares and Steven Aturo. During the 1990s, she developed a close friendship with Madonna. They were often seen together in public, but never confirmed a relationship with the press. Bernhard is currently in a relationship with Sara Switzer.
Childhood and Family:
Born Sandra Gail Bernhard on June 6, 1955, in Flint, Michigan, Sandra Bernhard is the youngest of four children of Jerome Bernhard, a proctologist, and Jeanette Bernhard, an artist, sculptor and photographer. Her parents later divorced after 38 years of marriage. When Sandra was 10 years old her family relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona, where she attended Saguaro High School. After graduating high school, she spent a year in Israel and lived on a kibbutz (farm or settlement). Upon returning to the U.S., she moved to Los Angeles in 1974 and supported herself working as a manicurist for a posh salon. Her clients included Dyan Cannon and Jaclyn Smith.
On July 4, 1998, Sandra gave birth to a daughter she named Cecily Yasin Bernhard.
The King of Comedy
Arriving in L.A. at age 19, Sandra Bernhard began performing standup comedy at local clubs before gaining her early break in 1977 when she landed a supporting role on the short lived variety series “The Richard Pryor Show.” After the cancellation of the show, she returned to the club circuit.
Bernhard made her feature film acting debut in 1981 with a bit part in “Cheech & Chong's Nice Dreams,” a comedy co-written by and starring Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, who also directed the film. Her breakout role arrived the following year when she was cast as Masha in the Martin Scorsese comedy “The King of Comedy” (released in the U.S. on February 18, 1983), opposite Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis and Diahnne Abbott. The role brought the actress a 1984 National Society of Film Critics for Best Supporting Actress. After the success, she appeared in Donald Wrye's “The House of God” (1984), Ken Kwapis' “Sesame Street Presents: Follow that Bird” (1985), John Byrum's “The Whoopee Boys” (1986, starred Michael O'Keefe and Paul Rodriguez), the Lea Thompson comedy “Casual Sex” (1988) and Nicolas Roeg's “Track 29” (1988). She also made guest appearances in “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1985) and “The Hitchhiker” (1986).
Bernhard starred in her first one woman show, “I'm Your Woman,” in 1985. It was followed by an unsuccessful album version that same year. Originally released on vinyl, the album was re-released on compact disc in 2004. Three years later, she debuted off-Broadway with her one person show “Without You I'm Nothing,” which played at The Orpheum Theatre. The performance was recorded and nominated for a 1991 Grammy in the category of Best Comedy. A motion picture version of the show was made in 1990 with Bernhard also making her debut as a screenwriter. The film adaptation, which was largely shot on location in 1989 in The Cocoanut Grove located in The Ambassador Hotel, was directed by John Boskovich.
In 1991, Bernhard took the villainous role of Minerva Mayflower, Richard E. Grant's wife, on the Michael Lehmann ill-fated film “Hudson Hawk,” which starred Bruce Willis. She then received the recurring role of Nancy Bartlett, a married woman who comes out as a lesbian, on the ABC popular sitcom “Roseanne,” which was co-created by and starred Roseanne Barr. She appeared in 33 episodes of the series during 1991 to 1997. Also in 1991, she released “Excuses For Bad Behavior (Part One),” a combination of spoken comedy bits, comedic songs and music that she co-wrote and co-produced with longtime collaborator Mitch Kaplan. The album was not a commercial success.
1992 saw Bernhard host the Comedy Central show “The A-List,” costar in the comedy film “Inside Monkey Zetterland,” which reunited her with “Without You I'm Nothing” cast member Steve Antin, who wrote the screenplay, and pose nude for “Playboy.” The same year, she also signed a two year deal with the Ford Models, Inc. Bernhard revisited the big screen with the starring role of Dallas Adair in the failed Australian comedy “Dallas Doll” (1994), which was written and directed by Ann Turner. Subsequent film credits included “Museum of Love” (1996), “The Apocalypse” (1997), “Plump Fiction” (1997), “Lover Girl” (1997), “Burn Hollywood Burn” (1997), “Exposé” (1998), the Edward Wood Jr. written silent movie “I Woke Up Early the Day I Died” (1998), “Somewhere in the City” (1998), “One Hell of a Guy” (1998, as the voice of God) and “Wrongfully Accused” (1998). Bernhard also made guest appearances in a string of TV series during 1995 to 1999, including CBS' “Chicago Hope” (as an attorney named Sheila Truitt), ABC's “Clueless” (as Ms. Sorenso) and Fox's “Ally McBeal” (as Caroline Poop). She was also cast as Frieda Dabney in Disney's remake of “Freaky Friday” (ABC, 1995) and voiced Casandra in several episodes of the ABC animated series “Hercules” (1998-1999). Her voice could also be heard in episodes of “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist” (1996, as Sandra), “Superman” (1997), “Spider-Man” (1997) and “Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man” (1997). In 1996, she hosted USA Network's “Reel Wild Cinema with Sandra Bernhard.”
In 1998, Bernhard made her Broadway debut with her one woman show “I'm Still Here ... Damn It,” which was previously a smash hit off-Broadway. A live recording album of the same name was released that same year under TVT Records, with Bernhard also serving as producer. The TV special “Sandra Bernhard: I'm Still Here... Damn It,” which she wrote and starred in, was broadcasted on HBO in 1999.
Entering the new millennium, Bernhard portrayed Bibi Carlson on “Playing Mona Lisa” (2000), a comedy film starring Alicia Witt, Harvey Fierstein and Brooke Langton, appeared with Danny Aiello and John Rothman in the movie “Dinner Rush” (2000, directed by Bob Giraldi) and guest starred in the TV series “V.I.P.,” “The Sopranos” (as Gina) and “Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child” (all 2000). She then released the album “The Love Machine” (2001), based on her one person stage show of the same name, appeared in NBC's “Will & Grace” episodes “Swimming Pools... Movie Stars” (2001) and “Someone Old, Someplace New” (2002), costarred as Ola in the 2003 short film “The Third Date” (written and directed by Amy K. Barrett) and had guest roles in the TV series “Dragnet,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Girlfriends” (all 2003).
In 2004, Bernhard played Sheila Fontana on the TV film “Silver Lake,” provided the voice of Claralyne Cluck for the animated film “The Easter Egg Adventure” and launched the album “Excuses for Bad Behavior (Part Two).” In between “The Love Machine” and “Excuses for Bad Behavior (Part Two),” she released the album “Hero Worship,” a live recording of her one woman show by the same name. The following year, she returned to series TV as a recurring player on the Showtime series “The L Word” where she played Charlotte Birch in the episodes “Lap Dance,” “Loneliest Number,” “Lagrimas de Oro,” “Luminous” and “Late, Later, Latent.” The same year, she appeared in two episodes of “Crossing Jordan” and portrayed Sherri Dansen in the film “Searching for Bobby D.”
Bernhard performed off-Broadway in “Everything Bad & Beautiful” in 2006, which was accompanied by an album of the same title that was released on the independent label Breaking Records. She also released the album “Germs of Mystery” the same year and was seen in the short movie “Twenty Dollar Drinks” and in an episode of “My First Time.”
From 2007 to 2008, Bernhard toured with her show, “Plan B from Outer Space.” On the small screen, she guest starred in “Las Vegas,” “The New Adventures of Old Christine” (both 2007) and “American Dad” (2008). She was then cast as Dr. Serena Mohr in the 2009 dramatic film “Dare,” which was directed by Adam Salky and starred Emmy Rossum, Zach Gilford, Ashley Springer, Ana Gasteyer and Rooney Mara.
Recently, Bernhard completed filming the romantic film “See You in September” (2010) for director Tamara Tunie. Costars of the movie include Estella Warren, Justin Kirk, Liza Lapira, David Eigenberg, Michael Rispoli and Maulik Pancholy. On television, she will play Lorraine in the made for TV film “Glass Heels” (2010), which was directed and co-written by Bennie R. Richburg Jr.
Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival: Artistic Achievement Award, 2006
GLAAD Media: Davidson/Valentini Award, 2002
National Society of Film Critics (NSFC): Best Supporting Actress, “The King of Comedy,” 1984