By Tulis McCall
After seeing Sandra Bernhard at Joe’s Pub, you can’t help but be reflective. I waled out wondering – what is so appealing about about watching an icon? There is a familiarity of course. But is it who they are or who they know? After all, it is only 2 degrees of separation. Sandra Bernhard knew Sue Mengers, (recently portrayed by Bette Midler in ‘ll East you Last) the infamous Hollywood agent, and Mengers knew everyone. So by watching Bernhard are we actually connected to Barbra Streisand?
This is a question one could imagine Bernhard asking herself – and I am surprised she didn’t. She covered everything else – including our unfortunate choice for a new President who Bernhard says “dresses like a bouncer at a low class nightclub.” Perfect. Depressing, but perfect.
While there is music throughout the evening, it is the speechifying that takes center stage. Bernhard is an observer of life’s idiocies and inexplicable events. She maintains that she is as upset about Time Warner becoming Spectrum as she is about the election. And her delivery alone makes us believe her – and empathize.
She takes us through her own life – and this is where the icon part comes in – the events are not all that funny, but because it is Bernhard we think they are. Her daughter has co-opted Christmas to the point where the air is nearly sucked out of the holiday; First Class seats on Jet Blue can be had for a song, but are only worth it if you can buy them at the airport and get the front row seat that makes you think you are flying private. Do not get between Bernhard and her First Class experience. E-v-e-r.
Bernhard drops names and opinions like bonbons. Tom Ford’s new movie is a disaster. The people at Apple really ARE geniuses because they know how to reboot your phone (which she never puts to her ear because she doesn’t trust what electric rays may be coming out of it – ear buds only for our Sandy). Indignation is in no short supply as she navigates the roadways of the common folk. She says the things that the rest of us say but not with such persistence and commitment and relentless pursuit.
She ridicules everything within eyesight. That includes herself. Her idiosyncrasies, fears and doubts are all laid out like a smorgasbord. She is a sucker for material goods but very specific. Eagle Creek Pouch is a thing of beauty. Especially the Velcro. Harmon Family Values is a mecca for everything a drugstore offers for a little cheaper. The subways a place teaming with life that is unimaginable – filled with the packs of Orthodox woman and their children. Their outfits are amazing in themselves – but what is up with the wigs? Bernhard has guests on Sandyland – her radio show who could show them all a thing or two.
Her observations wander around the reservation at will. AARP is the entrance to an unsexier time. Can’t everyone please stop making jewelry? Parents please stop naming your children after seasons or fruit!!! She is pissed off at Israel for becoming a place where no one gets along, when she herself saw them getting along when she worked on a kibbutz. She makes no bones about despising Netanyahu.
She is strongest when she leaves her script (I was surprised she used notes) and launches into a story. Her timing is fresh and her aim is precise. Her band, The Sandyland Squad: Mitch Kaplan (piano & musical director), Jon Badamo (drums), Ben Chuchinsky (guitar) are all earnest but unimpressive.
Bernhard’s disdain is contagious because it is goodhearted with a crispy exterior. Underneath Bernhard’s surface you know there is a person who wants to kiss the world, but will check for germs first.
Sandra Bernhard’s Sandra Monica Blvd: Coast to Coast ; Joe’s Pub at The Public, December 26-31, 2016