Sandra Bernhard

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Sandra Bernhard
Sandra Bernhard crop.JPG
Bernhard at the Daryl Roth Theater in New York City, 2006.
Born (1955-06-06) June 6, 1955 (age 66) [1]
Education Saguaro High School
  • Actress
Years active1977–present
Known forNancy Bartlett Thomas – Roseanne
Spouse(s)Sara Switzer Bernhard (2019-present)

Sandra Bernhard (born June 6, 1955) is an American actress. She first gained attention in the late 1970s with her stand-up comedy, in which she often critiqued celebrity culture and political figures.


Bernhard is best known as portraying Nancy Barlett Thomas on the ABC sitcom Roseanne from the fourth season (1991) to the end of the show in 1997. She has portrayed Nurse Judy Kubrak in the FX drama series Pose . Bernhard is number ninety-six on Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time. [2]

Early life

Bernhard was born June 6, 1955 [1] in Flint, Michigan, the daughter of Jeanette (née LaZebnik) and proctologist Jerome Bernhard. [3] [4] Her parents raised her as a Conservative Jew. [5]

She has three brothers: Dan, David and Mark. [4] Bernhard's family moved to Arizona when she was 10. [6] Bernhard attended Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, graduating in 1973. [7]


Bernhard became a staple at The Comedy Store. [8] [9] As her popularity as a comedian grew, she was cast as a supporting player on The Richard Pryor Show in 1977. [10] [11] Guest appearances on evening talk shows followed. Her big break came in 1983 when she was cast by Martin Scorsese to star as stalker and kidnapper Masha in the film The King of Comedy , for which she won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress. [12] [13] Bernhard was also a frequent guest on David Letterman's NBC program Late Night with David Letterman , making 28 appearances starting in 1983. [14]

She began performing her first one-woman show called I'm Your Woman in 1985, and an album version was released. [15] Bernhard appeared in a variety of small television roles throughout the 1980s while crafting her stand-up routine into a more performance art-oriented show.[ citation needed ] She launched an off-Broadway one-woman show called Without You, I'm Nothing, With You, I'm Not Much Better in 1988, which played at the Orpheum Theatre. In 1990 it was turned into a film and a double album of the same title. [16] [17] The film was mostly shot on location in 1989 in the coconut grove at the Ambassador Hotel. [18]

It was during the run of 'Without You, I'm Nothing, With You, I'm Not Much Better' that Bernhard appeared with her then good friend (and rumored lover) Madonna on a 1988 episode of Late Night with David Letterman. The two alluded to their romantic relationship and staged a sexy confrontation; the appearance received much publicity. Bernhard and Madonna would continue to be friends for several years, with Bernhard making an appearance in Madonna's film Truth or Dare . [19] [20] [21]

In 1991, Bernhard began playing the role of Nancy Bartlett on the hit sitcom Roseanne . She appeared in 33 episodes between 1991 and 1997 and was one of the first actresses to portray an openly bisexual recurring character on American television. The role is one of her best known, something she has lamented in her stand-up as being both a blessing and a curse. [22] [23] [24] In September 1992, Bernhard did a nude pictorial for Playboy . [25] She hosted the USA Network's Reel Wild Cinema for two seasons beginning in 1995. [26] [27] Bernhard continued acting in mostly independent films and TV guest roles and forays into mainstream films such as Hudson Hawk and Dallas Doll . In 1991 she released her first studio album, titled Excuses for Bad Behavior (Part One) . In 1995, she briefly appeared as a guest in the animated talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast , in an episode titled "Jerk". In 1996, she guest-starred on an episode of Highlander: The Series called "Dramatic License", in which she played a romance novelist writing about the life of the main character. She also appeared (as herself) on Will & Grace in an episode dealing with Will and Grace's spuriously bidding on Bernhard's Manhattan apartment in order to become friendly with her that culminates in a diatribe from Bernhard when their ruse is exposed, with obfuscating sounds of a blender (she was having a smoothie made) blotting out supposed obscenities. She briefly returned as herself two years later.[ citation needed ]

Bernhard returned to Broadway in 1998 with the show I'm Still Here... Damn It! , recorded for a live comedy album. At that time of the show, Bernhard was pregnant. She gave birth to daughter Cicely Yasin Bernhard on July 4, 1998. [28] [29] Bernhard returned to New York in 2006 with the Off-Broadway show Everything Bad & Beautiful . The CD Everything Bad & Beautiful was critically lauded as one of her best, released by indie label Breaking Records. [30] That year she also hosted the first season of the reality competition show The Search for the Funniest Mom in America on Nick at Nite. The year 2007 saw the debut of her one-woman show Plan B from Outer Space and the inclusion of her Hanukkah-themed song "Miracle of Lights", which she co-wrote with Mitchell Kaplan, in the Breaking Records compilation album Breaking For the Holidays. She toured Plan B through 2008 and performed "Miracle of Lights" on some morning shows in New York.[ citation needed ]

Bernhard was a featured guest singer with children's artist Dan Zanes on the Family Dance album's "Thrift Shop". [31] In an interview with Howard Stern, the comedian revealed that she was originally offered the role of Miranda Hobbes on the TV show Sex and the City but opted out owing to the "terrible" original script and small paycheck. [32] In 2013, the media announced that Sandra Bernhard would be joining the cast of ABC Family's Switched at Birth along with Glee's Max Adler, in which Sandra would assume the role of an art professor on the Season 3 Opener in January 2014. [33] Starting in 2015, Bernhard began hosting a radio show, Sandyland, on Sirius XM's, Radio Andy. [34]

In 2015, she played a recurring character, Joedth ("Joe"), on season 4 of 2 Broke Girls . She is currently playing Nurse Judy on FX's POSE , a show based on queer and trans ball culture in Manhattan inspired by the documentary Paris is Burning . [35]

Public controversies

In August 2006, Sandra Bernhard served as the spokesperson in a commercial for Make-up Art Cosmetics (MAC). In the commercial, promoting PlushGlass lipgloss, Bernhard referred to someone who might not approve of her outspokenness as a "...little freaked out, intimidated, frightened, right-wing Republican thin-lipped bitch". MAC edited the line from the commercial to avoid unintentionally offending some of its customer base. [36]

On Sept. 19, 2008, she warned Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin that she would be gang-raped by her "big black brothers" if she visited Manhattan. Palin had a campaign stop planned in New York City at the time. [37] [38] [39]

In November 2020, during an interview with Mariah Carey, Naomi Campbell called out Sandra Bernhard for her past racist comments about Mariah Carey and Black men in her 1998 comedy show "I’m Still Here… Damn It!", wherein Bernhard disparaged Mariah's Black identity saying, "She’s trying to backtrack on our asses by acting real niggerish there at the Royalton Hotel suite with Puff Daddy and all the greasy, chain-wearing Black men.”[36] Bernhard also frequently stold the story in her career of being called "nigger-lips" by children growing up in Arizona without censoring the word. As of 2021 she has, when retelling this story, changed the text to say she was called "an ethnic slur" which she will no longer repeat.

Personal life

Bernhard is bisexual and a strong supporter of LGBT rights. [40] [41] On July 4, 1998, Bernhard gave birth to a daughter, Cicely Yasin Bernhard, [42] whom she raised with her partner of over twenty years, Sara Switzer. [43] [44] [45]


Bernhard performs classic pop music, jazz, and blues tunes. She has released several albums (combinations of music and comedy).[ citation needed ]




1980 Shogun Assassin Voice-over in English dub
1981 Cheech & Chong's Nice Dreams Girl Nut
1983 The King of Comedy Masha National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress
1984 The House of God Angel Dutton
1985 Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird Grouch Diner WaitressCameo appearance
1986 The Whoopee Boys Extra (uncredited)
1988 Casual Sex? Extra (uncredited)
Track 29 Nurse Stein
1989 Heavy Petting HerselfDocumentary
1990 Without You I'm Nothing Herself (also writer)
1991 Madonna: Truth or Dare HerselfDocumentary
Hudson Hawk Minerva Mayflower
1992 Inside Monkey Zetterland Imogene
1994 Sandra Bernhard: Confessions of a Pretty Lady Herself
Dallas Doll Dallas Adair
1995 Unzipped HerselfDocumentary
One Hundred and One Nights La première quêteuse
The Reggae MovieHerselfDocumentary
Catwalk HerselfDocumentary
1997Lover GirlMarci Guerra/'Angel'
The ApocalypseJ.T. Wayne
Plump Fiction Bunny Roberts
1998 An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn Ann Glover
Wrongfully Accused Dr. Fridley
Somewhere in the City Betty
I Woke Up Early the Day I Died Sandy Sands/Professional Mourner and Stripper
2000One Hell of a GuyGod (voice only)
Playing Mona Lisa Bibi CarlsonAudience Choice Award for Best Feature Stony Brook Film Festival
Dinner Rush Jennifer Freely
2003The Grumpy BugNarratorVoice
2001 Zoolander HerselfCameo appearance
2004 The N-Word HerselfDocumentary
The Easter Egg AdventureClaralyne Cluck (voice only)
2005Searching for Bobby DSherri Dansen
2009 Dare Dr. Serena Mohr
2010 See You in September Charlotte
2011Looking for LennyHerselfDocumentary


1977 The Richard Pryor Show Featured PerformerCanceled after 4 episodes
1985 Alfred Hitchcock Presents KarenThe Episode entitled "Night Caller"
1991–1997, 2018 Roseanne Nancy Bartlett Recurring role (33 episodes)
1992Sandra After Dark, with Your Hostess, Sandra BernhardHerself (also co-executive producer)TV film
1992–93The A-ListHerself/Host1 episode
1994-96Reel Wild CinemaHerself/Host22 episodes
1995 Space Ghost Coast to Coast Herself1 episode
Freaky Friday Frieda DebnyTV film
The Larry Sanders Show Herself2 episodes
1996 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Herself1 episode
The Late Shift HerselfTV film
Highlander: The Series Carolyn Marsh1 episode: "Dramatic License"
1997 Superman: The Animated Series Gsptlsnz1 episode
Ally McBeal Caroline Poop2 episodes
1998–99 Hercules Cassandra (voice only)45 episodes
1999 Sandra Bernhard - I'm Still Here..Damn It! Herself (also writer)TV film
2000 The Sopranos Herself as Gina1 episode: "D-Girl"
2001-02 Will & Grace Herself2 episodes
2001Sandra Bernhard: Giving Them LipHerselfTV movie
2001–03The Sandra Bernhard ExperienceHerself/Hostunknown episodes
2003 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Priscilla Chaney1 episode
Girlfriends Marcia1 episode
2004 Silver Lake Sheila FontanaUnsold pilot
2004The Grumpy BugNarratorVoice
2004 Whoopi's Littleburg The Macaroni Lady1 episode
2005 Crossing Jordan Roz Framus2 episodes
The L Word Charlotte Birch5 episodes
2005–06 The Queer Edge Herself/Co-Host26 episodes
2007 Las Vegas Margo Poon1 episode
The New Adventures of Old Christine Audrey1 episode
2009 Head Case Herself1 episode
2011 Roseanne's Nuts Herself1 episode
Hot in Cleveland Nan1 episode
2012 Family Guy Herself (voice)Episode: "Ratings Guy"
GCB Debby Horowitz1 episode
DTLA Carla3 episodes
2013 The Neighbors Ms. Porsche1 episode
2014 Switched at Birth Prof. Teresa Ledarsky4 episodes
You're the Worst Herself1 episode
2014–15 Brooklyn Nine-Nine Darlene Linetti3 episodes
2015 2 Broke Girls Joedth5 episodes
2016 Difficult People Lilith Feigenbaum1 episode
2018–21 Pose Judy Kubrak12 episodes
2018 American Horror Story: Apocalypse HannahEpisode: "Sojourn"
2019 Sweetbitter Maddie Glover1 episode

Short subjects

1996Museum of LoveKitty
2003The Third DateOla
2006Twenty Dollar DrinksStar


YearNominated workAwardCategoryResult
1983 The King of Comedy NSFC Awards Won
1991 Hudson Hawk Golden Raspberry Awards Nominated
1997 Highlander: The Series OFTA Awards
  • Best Guest Actress in a Syndicated Series
2002Herself GLAAD Media Awards Won
2006 Philadelphia QFest Awards
  • Artistic Achievement Award

See also

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