Sandra Bernhard Talks 'Sandrology,' Food & the Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse

Sandra Bernhard is back in town at REDCAT with her new stage show, Sandrology. She is perhaps best known for her biting social commentary, energized performance style, and edgy glamour; but there is another side to the comedienne that rarely comes across while she entertaining. At heart, Bernhard is rather modest, unassuming, and deeply appreciative of the simple pleasures that most take for granted. LAist spoke to Bernhard about Sandrology, friends, food, and the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

What can you tell LAist about Sandrology, your show that is currently running at REDCAT?
Sandra Bernhard: It is a hybrid of vocals, cabaret, burlesque, political and social commentary, and stream of consciousness. It is a big old-school show with an amazing rock band and great songs where I discuss what is happening in society, politics, pop culture, and my own life. The name Sandrology is lifted from some of my work on television, but my stage show is totally unique. I was really happy to be invited back to REDCAT to do Sandrology.

You are a self-described pop culture anthropologist. What kind of field work and ethnography does that entail?
It doesn't take much. Anytime you step out of your front door you are surrounded by people and life. When I am in New York, everyone is just so vibrant, that there is always something interesting to see and observe. Los Angeles is its own interesting archeological dig. Even just driving down Sunset Boulevard, there is just so much to take in. I even love to observe what people do when they are dealing with mundane things like going to the gym or shopping at the grocery store. The world is fascinating and it is all right there your fingertips if you are just willing to take the time to observe.

From what you have observed as a pop culture anthropologist, which celebrities and politicians do you think will be the first to succumb to the zombie apocalypse and what will be your weapon of choice to fend them off?
Obviously, the reactionary, right wing anti-choice dupes and the closet racists will be the first to go. I don't have to mention names. You know who they are. Everybody knows who they are. My weapon of choice would be my inner strength and purity of heart.

You are really good at pointing out the absurdity of celebrity and pop culture. Do media executives or celebrities ever try to street fight you for pointing out their unsavory foibles?
No, I think people take it as a compliment. People actually like it when I discuss them, so it works in reverse of what you would expect. People are almost always flattered that I pointed them out, that I noticed them and gave thought to what they are working on. Except for Monsanto — they like to respond by bringing out their big guns public relations people to try to convince everybody that they really care about people. But they don't. They are pure evil.
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How do you deal with the occupational hazards of reporting celebrity gossip commentary? Does OSHA even have a safety policy for you?
It is rare, but if somebody ever comes at me in a super-common, cliché, tacky, obvious way, I just block them. I have had some Twitter exchanges from people that I have had to block. They are usually very political, right wing, obvious attacks. And they attack everybody, not just me. But day-to-day, regular people are pretty cool, and it is great to hear from them.

You are a New Yorker, right? But you have lived in Los Angeles, too. Is it true that New York is full of assholes and LA is full of pussies?
I have lived in New York for years, but I don't really consider myself a New Yorker because I have lived in so many places. I really think of myself more as an all-around American. And I definitely don't think that statement about New Yorkers and Angelenos gives an apt description of either place! You always have to develop one-on-one relationships with people, even if it is just for a few moments. I never make assumptions or take people for stereotypical face value. There are great people wherever you go! You should really take the time to develop good friendships no matter where you are and work hard to keep good people in your life.

What do you like to do when you are in Los Angeles?
I am usually working when I am in Los Angeles, but when I am not working, I like to catch up with old friends and sometimes just drive around town. I have a lot of great friends here. It is nice to just have a nice, sunny, backyard barbeque with good friends. The food in Los Angeles is excellent and there is a lot of really delicious healthy food here that you can't get in other cities. I eat a lot of great vegetarian food when I am here. Cafe Gratitude is really good.

You're smart, feminist, lesbian, Jewish, have a good grasp of proper Hebrew pronunciation, and you can sing. Would you say you are like a Yentl for the 21st Century? Don't you think it is about time that they remake Yentl (with better music, of course), and cast you as the lead?
I really don't think that would be my most satisfying performance. I think my work is a lot more sophisticated and definitely more postmodern than that.

Is there anything else that you would like to tell our readers about Sandrology
Self-promotion is just not my thing. I like my work to speak for itself. It is unique. It isn't just standup. I love to really engage my audience. I demand that they pay attention to the world around them. Sandrology is two hours of intellectual postmodern exchange. I hope to see everybody there at REDCAT, but I also think it is important to support the arts and all of the talented and hardworking artists out there.

Sandrology is playing at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) through June 10. Tickets are $50 to $55 and available online or via phone at 213-237-2800.