Sandra Bernhard
Bernhard at the Daryl Roth Theater in New York City, 2006
Born (1955-06-06) June 6, 1955 (age 68)[1]
EducationSaguaro High School
  • Actress
  • comedian
  • singer
  • author
Years active1977–present
Known forNancy Bartlett Thomas in Roseanne and Judy Kubrak in Pose
PartnerSara Switzer (2000–present)

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

She is perhaps best known for portraying Nancy Bartlett Thomas on the ABC sitcom Roseanne from the fourth season (1991) to the end of the show in 1997. She played Nurse Judy Kubrak in the FX drama series Pose. She is number 96 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time.

Early life

Bernhard was born June 6, 1955,[1] in Flint, Michigan, the daughter of Jeanette (née LaZebnik) and proctologist Jerome Bernhard.[2] Her parents raised her as a Conservative Jew.[3]

In 1973 she traveled to Israel and stayed for 7 months at Kibbutz Kfar Menahem with her friend Daniel Chick. She later returned to Israel during the Yom Kippur War.[4]

She has three older brothers: Dan, David and Mark.[2] Her family moved to Arizona when she was 10.[5] She attended Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, graduating in 1973.[6]


Bernhard became a staple at The Comedy Store.[7][8] As her popularity as a comedian grew, she was cast as a supporting player on The Richard Pryor Show in 1977.[9][10] Guest appearances on evening talk shows followed. Her big break came in 1983 when she was cast by Martin Scorsese to star as stalker/kidnapper Masha in the film The King of Comedy, for which she won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress.[11][12] She was a frequent guest on David Letterman's NBC program Late Night with David Letterman, making 28 appearances starting in 1983.[13]

She began performing her first one-woman show, I'm Your Woman, in 1985, and an album version was released.[14] She 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.[15][16] The film was mostly shot on location in 1989 in the Cocoanut Grove nightclub at the Ambassador Hotel.[citation needed]

During the run of Without You, I'm Nothing, With You, I'm Not Much Better 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. They continued to be friends for several years, with Bernhard making an appearance in Madonna's film Truth or Dare.[17][18][19] The friendship ended in 1992.[20][21]

In 1991, Bernhard began playing 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.[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] She continued acting in mostly independent films, TV guest roles, and forays into mainstream films such as Hudson Hawk and Dallas Doll. In 1991, she released her first studio album, Excuses for Bad Behavior (Part One). In 1995, she briefly appeared as a guest in the "Jerk" episode of the animated talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast. In 1996, she guest-starred on an episode of Highlander: The Series called "Dramatic License", where she played a romance novelist writing about the life of the main character.

She appeared as herself on Will & Grace, in an episode where the title characters spuriously bid on Bernhard's Manhattan apartment in an attempt to become friendly with her. When their ruse is exposed, Bernhard rants at them, with the 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. She was pregnant at the time, and gave birth to daughter Cicely Yasin Bernhard on July 4, 1998.[28][29] She returned to New York in 2006 with the off-Broadway show Everything Bad & Beautiful. The CD of the show, released by indie label Breaking Records, was lauded as one of her best.[30] That year she also hosted the first season of the reality competition show The Search for the Funniest mother in America on Nick at Nite. 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.[31][32]

Bernhard hosting The Queer Edge with Jack E. Jett

Bernhard was a featured guest singer with children's artist Dan Zanes on the Family Dance album's "Thrift Shop".[33] In an interview with Howard Stern, she 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.[34] In 2013, it was announced that she would join the cast of ABC Family's Switched at Birth with Glee's Max Adler, where she would play an art professor on the season 3 opener in January 2014.[35] In 2015, she began hosting a radio show, Sandyland, on Sirius XM's Radio Andy.[36]

In 2015, she made her first appearance as the recurring character of Joedth ("Joe") in season 4 of 2 Broke Girls. From 2018 until 2021, she played Nurse Judy on FX's Pose, a show based on queer and trans ball culture in Manhattan inspired by the documentary Paris Is Burning.[37]

Public controversies

In 1995, while serving as a guest panelist on the Comedy Central talk show Politically Incorrect, Bernhard became engaged in an argument with fellow panelist, conservative political commentator John Lofton. Bernhard then stood up and spat at Lofton and exclaimed, "If I had you, you’d be an abortion."[38]

In August 2006, Bernhard served as the spokesperson in a commercial for Make-up Art Cosmetics (MAC). In the commercial, promoting PlushGlass lipgloss, she 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 customers.[39]

In September 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.[40][41][42]

In November 2020, during an interview with Mariah Carey, Naomi Campbell called out Bernhard for her comments about Carey and Black men in her 1998 comedy show I'm Still Here… Damn It! In the show, Bernhard disparaged Carey's Black ancestry, saying "She's trying to backtrack on our asses by acting real nigger-ish there at the Royalton Hotel suite with Puff Daddy and all the greasy, chain-wearing Black men."[43]

Personal life

Bernhard identifies as bisexual and is a strong supporter of LGBT rights.[44][45] On July 4, 1998, she gave birth to a daughter,[46] whom she raised with Sara Switzer, her partner of over 20 years.[47][48][49] Bernhard was also in a relationship with Venezuelan actress Patricia Velasquez.[50]


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




Year Title Role Notes
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 Waitress Cameo
1986 The Whoopee Boys Extra (uncredited)
1988 Casual Sex? Extra (uncredited)
Track 29 Nurse Stein
1989 Heavy Petting Herself Documentary
1990 Without You I'm Nothing Herself (also writer)
1991 Madonna: Truth or Dare Herself Documentary
Hudson Hawk Minerva Mayflower
1992 Inside Monkey Zetterland Imogene
1994 Sandra Bernhard: Confessions of a Pretty Lady Herself
Dallas Doll Dallas Adair
1995 Unzipped Herself Documentary
One Hundred and One Nights La première quêteuse
The Reggae Movie Herself Documentary
Catwalk Herself
1997 Lover Girl Marci Guerra/'Angel'
The Apocalypse J.T. Wayne
Plump Fiction Bunny Roberts
1998 An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn Ann Glover
Exposé Janet
Wrongfully Accused Dr. Fridley
Somewhere in the City Betty
I Woke Up Early the Day I Died Sandy Sands/Professional Mourner and Stripper
2000 One Hell of a Guy God Voice
Playing Mona Lisa Bibi Carlson Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Stony Brook Film Festival
Dinner Rush Jennifer Freely
2001 Zoolander Herself Cameo appearance
2003 The Grumpy Bug Narrator Voice
2004 The N-Word Herself Documentary
The Easter Egg Adventure Claralyne Cluck Voice
2005 Searching for Bobby D Sherri Dansen
2009 Dare Dr. Serena Mohr
2010 See You in September Charlotte
2011 Looking for Lenny Herself Documentary
2024 Babes Completed


Year Title Role Notes
1977 The Richard Pryor Show Featured Performer 4 episodes
1985 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Karen Episode: "Night Caller"
1990 Pee-Wee's Playhouse Rhonda Episode: "Camping Out"
1991–1997, & 2018 Roseanne Nancy Bartlett Recurring role
1992 Sandra After Dark, with Your Hostess, Sandra Bernhard Herself (also co-executive producer) TV movie
1992–1993 The A-List Herself/host 1 episode
1994–1996 Reel Wild Cinema Herself/host 22 episodes
1995 Space Ghost Coast to Coast Herself 1 episode
Freaky Friday Frieda Debny TV movie
The Larry Sanders Show Herself 2 episodes
1996 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Voice, episode: "A Journey for the Betterment of People"
The Late Shift TV movie
Highlander: The Series Carolyn Marsh Episode: "Dramatic License"
1997 Superman: The Animated Series Ms. Gsptlsnz Voice, episode: "Mxyzpixilated"
Ally McBeal Caroline Poop 2 episodes
Spider-Man Sarah Baker Voice, episode: "Partners"
1998–1999 Hercules Cassandra Voice, main role
1999 Sandra Bernhard - I'm Still Here..Damn It! Herself (also writer) TV movie
2000 The Sopranos Herself Episode: "D-Girl"
2001–2002 Will & Grace 2 episodes
2001 Sandra Bernhard: Giving Them Lip TV movie
2001–2003 The Sandra Bernhard Experience Herself/host Unknown episodes
2003 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Priscilla Chaney Episode: "Desperate"
Girlfriends Marcia Episode: "And Baby Makes Four"
2004 Silver Lake Sheila Fontana Unsold pilot
The Grumpy Bug Narrator Voice
Whoopi's Littleburg The Macaroni Lady 1 episode
2005 Crossing Jordan Roz Framus 2 episodes
The L Word Charlotte Birch 5 episodes
2005–2006 The Queer Edge Herself/co-host 26 episodes
2007 Las Vegas Margo Poon Episode: "The Burning Bedouin"
The New Adventures of Old Christine Audrey Episode: "Strange Bedfellows"
2009 Head Case Herself 1 episode
2011 Roseanne's Nuts Herself 1 episode
Hot in Cleveland Nan Episode: "Beards"
2012 Family Guy Herself Voice, episode: "Ratings Guy"
GCB Debby Horowitz 1 episode
DTLA Carla 3 episodes
2013 The Neighbors Ms. Porsche 1 episode
2014 Switched at Birth Prof. Teresa Ledarsky 4 episodes
You're the Worst Herself 1 episode
2014–2015 Brooklyn Nine-Nine Darlene Linetti 3 episodes
2015 2 Broke Girls Joedth 5 episodes
2016 Difficult People Lilith Feigenbaum 1 episode
2017 Broad City Brenda 2 episodes
2018–2021 Pose Judy Kubrak 13 episodes
2018 American Horror Story: Apocalypse Hannah Episode: "Sojourn"
2019 Sweetbitter Maddie Glover 1 episode
2022 American Horror Story: NYC Fran 6 episodes
2024 So Help Me Todd Attorney Belinda Tuttle Episode: "The Queen of Courts"

Short subjects

Year Title Role Notes
1996 Museum of Love Kitty
2003 The Third Date Ola
2006 Twenty Dollar Drinks Star


Year Nominated work Award Category Result
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
2002 Herself GLAAD Media Awards Won
2006 Philadelphia QFest Awards
  • Artistic Achievement Award

See also


  1. ^ a b "Horoscope: Gemini". Out. June 2003. p. 150. Archived from the original on July 1, 2021. Retrieved July 1, 2021 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b "Jeanette (LaZebnik) Bernhard Obituaryu". June 13, 2014. Archived from the original on July 22, 2015. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  3. ^ Iovine, Julie V. (October 22, 1998). "At Home With: Sandra Bernhard; When Baby Talk Makes Good Material". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Archived from the original on 2023-02-14.
  5. ^ "Vote Election Day 2008". Archived from the original on May 27, 2011.
  6. ^ Sentinel 1973. Scottsdale, AZ: Saguaro High School. p. 141. Retrieved May 27, 2021 – via
  7. ^ "Gotham Comedy Club". Retrieved January 5, 2021.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "When the Belly Room grew — and flopped — for female comics". The World from PRX. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  9. ^ "Sandra Bernhard On Sway: Talks Working With Richard Pryor & Robin Williams Being Known For Stealing Jokes -". Archived from the original on February 14, 2018. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  10. ^ "RICHARD PRYOR SHOW, THE {TIM REID, SANDRA BERNHARD} (TV)". Retrieved January 5, 2021.
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  12. ^ "The King of Comedy". Edinburgh International Film Festival. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  13. ^ Oswell, Paul (June 10, 2015). "Sandra Bernhard on today's young actors: 'They don't have personalities'". The Guardian. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  14. ^ "Sandra Bernhard - I'm Your Woman". Discogs. 1985. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  15. ^ "Melissa Anderson on Sandra Bernhard's Without You I'm Nothing at BAM". Artforum. December 9, 2013. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  16. ^ Travers, Peter (May 11, 1990). "Without You I'm Nothing". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  17. ^ Sager, Jessica (February 6, 2017). "Stars You Didn't Know Madonna Dated - Nicki Swift". Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  18. ^ "Sandra Bernhard and Madonna Are 'Cool With Each Other' Again". Us Weekly. June 13, 2019. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  19. ^ Madonna; DeLory, Donna; Harris, Niki; Camacho, Luis (May 15, 1991), Madonna: Truth or Dare, retrieved January 5, 2021
  20. ^ Johnson, Richard (October 20, 1992). "Sandra can't justify Madonna's love". New York Daily News.
  21. ^ "Bernhard claims she was dumped by Madonna". Calgary Herald. October 22, 1992. p. D13.
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  27. ^ Moore, Frazier. "Sandra Bernhard salutes the worst films ever with 'Reel Wild Cinema". Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  28. ^ Bernhard Goes Maternal, CBS News, July 8, 1998. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  29. ^ "Sandra Bernhard a mom at 42". CNN. July 8, 1998. Archived from the original on October 29, 2008. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  30. ^ "Breaking Records Music". Archived from the original on May 15, 2006. Retrieved August 6, 2009.
  31. ^ "Jazz news: Sandra Bernhard Releases "Miracles of Light"". All About Jazz. November 22, 2006. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
  32. ^ Inc, Nielsen Business Media (November 25, 2006). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. ((cite book)): |last= has generic name (help)
  33. ^ Dan Zanes, Friends feat. Sandra Bernhard, Thrift Shop, retrieved March 2, 2022
  34. ^ "Sandra Bernhard Turned Down 'Sex And The City' Role Due To 'Terrible' Script And Low Paycheck". HuffPost. January 25, 2012.
  35. ^ "Switched at Birth Adds Max Adler and Sandra Bernhard"., TV Fanatic. October 11, 2013
  36. ^ "Behind the Voice: Sandra Bernhard elevates the conversation on Radio Andy". December 26, 2016. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
  37. ^ "Cast & Crew POSE on FX". 2018. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  38. ^ "To Insult Or Not Insult, That Was Sandra's Choice". The Spokesman-Review. March 3, 1995. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
  39. ^ "Michelle Malkin". Archived from the original on March 2, 2022. Retrieved March 2, 2022.
  40. ^ "Sandra Bernhard issues 'gang rape' warning to Sarah Palin". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on September 20, 2008. Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  41. ^ "Sandra Bernhard's 'gang rape by big black brothers' threat to Sarah Palin!".
  42. ^ "Should Sarah Palin come to NY after Sandra Bernhard's warning?". International Business Times. Archived from the original on September 20, 2008. Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  43. ^ White, Adam (November 25, 2020). "Naomi Campbell condemns Sandra Bernhard over 'racist and disrespectful' Mariah Carey jokes". The Independent. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  44. ^ "Sandra Bernhard: Bisexuality and savage wit". The Independent. London. October 22, 2007. Retrieved June 24, 2013.
  46. ^ Iovine, Julie V. (October 22, 1998), "At Home with: Sandra Bernhard When Baby Talk Makes Good Material", The New York Times, retrieved October 29, 2015
  47. ^ "LIZ SMITH: The Time of the Season ..." New York Social Diary. January 7, 2015. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
  48. ^ Holmes, Anna (October 2008). "Sandra Bernhard, Daughter, Are A Duo Of Dames With Rebel Red". Jezebel.
  49. ^ Oswell, Paul (June 10, 2015). "Sandra Bernhard on today's young actors: 'They don't have personalities'". The Guardian.
  50. ^ "First Latina Supermodel Patricia Velasquez Comes Out as a Lesbian". Retrieved February 8, 2020.
  51. ^ a b "Sandra Bernhard". Billboard.