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MW: Aside from the TV, the touring, is there anything else in the works? Maybe another book?
BERNHARD: I will write another book. I’ve got a lot of material compiled already, but until I’m in some sort of high-profile position, like I’m on one of these shows I want to do on TV, and someone’s willing to write me a huge check for the advance, then I’ll do a book. I won’t throw out an amount, because it will sound pretentious. But until there’s a certain amount of money, I won’t write a book, because it’s simply too hard! Of course, they offered Lena Dunham three-and-a-half million dollars – why the hell wouldn’t she write a book? She’ll pull a book out of her ass, no kidding. I’m not saying I’m going to get three-and-a-half million dollars, but there’s a certain bottom line to writing a book these days, because, simply, books don’t sell. If you don’t get it up front, you’re not going to get it.
MW: You’re in a unique position to comment on a feud that interests me. You’ve been in Playboy. You consider yourself a ”post-feminist,” right?
MW: I’d argue Hugh Hefner has done good things for our society. And Gloria Steinem is a hero of mine. Hugh is not a hero of Gloria’s.
BERNHARD: Gloria went in and did some background, behind-the-scenes, undercover stuff. I’m sure if I’d had that part of the Playboy experience full-on, I’d feel differently. Taking it and subverting it the way that I did was the perfect platform for me. But I don’t live there. When you’re just visiting, you might have a different take on it. Also, my work is about irony. My work is taking unexpected venues and doing what I do and then leaving them. For Gloria, she was there doing something very specific and trying to crack open the whole idea that a woman was allowing herself to be used by the patriarchy. That’s obviously not an issue for me, so I can have fun with it.
MW: I suppose I’m just non-confrontational, hoping everyone will get along.
BERNHARD: Oh, you’re cute. I wish we all could. But without confrontation, there’s no evolution or change. Internally and externally, you’ve got to step up to the plate sometimes and say, ”I don’t like this, and I’m willing to fight for it.”
MW: Would you be my life coach?
BERNHARD: I am. I’m everybody’s life coach. You just have to choose to come see me.
MW: I’ll be there. What’s your invitation to everybody else?
BERNHARD: Short of sounding self-serving – but why wouldn’t I be self-serving when it’s my work? I think I’m really one of the quintessential, consummate performers that, year after year, create new material, have always put themselves on the line, and been very raw and real and incredibly entertaining. I think that, far before anybody, I was sort of a revolutionary in terms of sexuality, and it didn’t require me going on a talk show and crying about how I’d been treated unfairly. [Laughs.] I took the shit and I broke the shit down! I still do.
Listen, I don’t need the support of all these organizations. I have been self-supporting, and at the same time a reflection of people’s fears and inability to be who they are. And I say, ”You’ve got to be who you are. You’ve got to strip it down. You’ve got be fearless in this world. It’s up to you.” You can have all the support in the world, but if you can’t stand on your own two feet and be your own revolution, the rest of it doesn’t amount to anything. It’s up to you to fight the fight, constantly. We all have to get up every day and be the warriors that we need to be, to be who we are, and earn that right to be who we are.
Sandra Bernhard performs I Love Being Me, Don’t You? Saturday, March 2, at 8 p.m., at the Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. For tickets, $35 advance or $40 day of show, call 202-803-2899 or visit thehowardtheatre.com.