Sandra Bernhard hits Atlanta with barrels blazing

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Comedian, actress, writer and entertainer Sandra Bernhard is coming, and when the longtime gay favorite and proud B in LGBT brings “Sandyland” to Atlanta, you’ll just have to deal with it.

“I’ve earned my right to be this honest and forward and make some people uncomfortable,” Bernhard tells Project Q. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I took a lot of shit to get here, so I feel like I paid my dues to say whatever I want to say.”

And she does. The firebrand veteran of club and arena stages, TV, movies and gay hearts comes to town this weekend in a bit of a double header for AID Atlanta. She lands at the top-floor Altitude Lounge in the W Midtown on Saturday with two performances of her latest one-woman show that’s sure to put the audience in the aisles. The appearance benefits AIDS Walk and is sponsored by Laughing Skull Lounge. The next day, she serves as grand marshal for the main event in Piedmont Park.

It’s going to be hot, Bernhard says.


With Bernhard’s personal and professional histories, AIDS Walk is an appropriate time and an appropriate cause for what she calls a reunion with her gays. Before she brings her intelligent brutal honesty and off-center glam to the stage, Bernhard gives us her unvarnished take on AIDS, her gay fans, her online presence, and why she has no time for “idiots” on Twitter.

How do you see yourself as a performer, and how has the material changed over the years?

I try to blend elements of all the styles and people and experiences that I’ve had. More than just tell jokes, I’m a storyteller, a writer, a singer and an actor, and it all comes into play. I try to use all of the things that influence me, from standups to stylists.

I am constantly coming up with things just by living my life. Like I was buying sweatpants, and the tag had the word “fierce” on it, so I had a contest on my website to come up with the most overused word. There’s some great material in there.

These days, it’s harder to skewer celebrities like I used to because the whole thing has just become too muddled, with things like the “Housewives” shows acting like these people are celebrities now, and the internet where everyone’s a critic. It’s just not compelling any more. Now I’m about keeping it special and staying away from the obvious.

So if everyone’s a critic, it’s not interesting to you to be one too?

I’ve earned my right to be this honest and forward and make some people uncomfortable. I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I took a lot of shit to get here, so I feel like I paid my dues to say whatever I want to say. And I’m a professional. I know how to do social commentary for laughs. Some miserable person on Twitter doesn’t. They do it to be cruel and to be a smartass. They’re not adding anything to the conversation. I don’t engage idiots like that. I have better things to do with my time. I try to keep it light and fun with my fans online and ignore the bitter people.

Of course your gays will be out in force for you again this visit. How does their loyalty impact your material?

I wouldn’t say that it impacts my material, but at the same time I think that we have the same sense of humor. So the stuff I think is funny they just naturally gravitate towards. They’ve been there for me, they’ve supported my career, and I’m glad they stayed with me, and I feel like we’ve come out the other side together, so my shows are like reunions in a way.

Saturday’s shows benefit AIDS Walk Atlanta. What does that cause mean to you, here 30-some years into the epidemic?

We were so very young when it all started, and we’ve seen so many changes. Back then with the men it was a free-for-all, and the gay movement was not geared toward marriage the way it is today, at least publicly.

Now in terms of the landscape, HIV is so under control that I’m surprised in a way when people continue to get it here. People don’t like to hear this, but I wish I saw more common sense at play. My head is internationally and globally now, and we’re past due to handle it once and for all.

With recent deaths of people like Joan Rivers and Robin Williams, media outlets are busy wrapping their lives into neat little packages. Have you thought about what do you want your legacy to be?

I just have always tried to evolve and stay ahead of the crowd, keep moving and be open to change. I want to continue to be proud, to speak to where the culture is at, and speak past perceived limitations. You know, just someone who is who she is in the moment and tries to stay honest and find the deeper meaning and the humor in it all.

What else? Anything else for your gay Atlanta fans?

I don’t think so. I haven’t been in Atlanta for a long time. I just want to get there and reconnect with my crowd there. It’s going to be a blast.

Sandra Bernhard plays Altitude Lounge on Oct. 18 @ W Midtown, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.


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