I've seen Sandra Bernhard at least a half-dozen times. But last night's performance at Joe's Pub was definitely the best I can recall since I saw her in Hermosa Beach(?) back in 1990, when she was gearing up to promote the film adaptation of her classic "Without You I'm Nothing" stage show.
"Feel the Bernhard" was short, sloppy (she stammered on stories and she relied heavily on notes on a music stand, even while singing songs that most of us know by heart) and even included one entire segment lifted from another show of hers. (It was a greatest hit, so I'm not really complaining.) Yet despite all this, the whole was still far greater than the sum of its parts. The song selection was sublime, (I want to spoil it for you, but I won't. For those who question her singing ability, I find it's best to take it with a grain of salt.) Her take on politics, celebrity and consumerism were poignant and hysterical -- quietly reminding me that she may not have invented observational comedy, but she perfected it. (She even made herself laugh a couple times.) And her singularity -- after yet another year of being inundated by people famous for being famous and actual celebrities I've never heard of -- enveloped the room.
Afterward we skipped the T-shirt purchase/meet-and-greet, choosing instead to bask in the embers of the Bern. Sandra is like one of those beautiful tigers at the zoo. You can sit there and look at them all day, but you know there's a cage separating you for a reason. Instead, I signed up for Sirius XM so I can get a regular fresh dose of "Sandyland." I've always appreciated Sandra Bernhard. I can recite "Without You I'm Nothing" from top to bottom, and "The King of Comedy" is one of my favorite movies of all time, largely because of her firebrand performance. But it's only now as I close in on 50 --with her now 60 -- revisiting her countless appearances on David Letterman and Howard Stern that I realize my life would have been less fun without her in it, and I kind of want to savor every moment moving forward.