Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Stand-Up Spotlight

June 01, 2012

Sandra Bernhard Photo: Steven Gunther 2012
It was a little less than a year ago that Sandra Bernhard brought her show I Love Being Me, Don’t You? to REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles. Ms. Bernhard herself was the first to admit Wednesday that she was surprised to be back at the REDCAT so soon after these prior appearances. But there she was in all her glory with a show of mostly brand-new material at the invitation of the REDCAT staff for what will be two weeks of shows. The new material is packaged under the title Sandrology, and as the title suggests, there is plenty of the autobiographical material she’s been known for. But things were decidedly different this time around than last year. Ms. Bernhard’s comedy has long operated on the outskirts of traditional stand-up comedy. She doesn’t really tell jokes as much as she creates ironic extended riffs on the American culture of angst and celebrity. She weaves elaborate and decidedly fake tales around songs with just a twinge of irony in their loving embrace. I Love Being Me, Don’t You? extrapolated that methodology to a sophisticated and polished end in an evening that could be as much rock concert as comedy show.

But Sandrology takes off and runs in the opposite direction. There are still songs, six in all, including a finale medley of Apollonia 6’s “Sex Shooter”, Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”, and Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun”. I’ll let you puzzle out the critique in that one, but let it be said that any evening that start’s with Neil Sedaka’s “Laughter in the Rain” is going to be a good one. But the majority of the two-hour evening is performed without a band, Ms. Bernhard at the mic delivering full-fledged written comic riffs on everything from celebrity perfume brands, twitter accounts, and the relative social statements of shopping at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. (If you’re wondering, no one gets away clean.) The extended song embedded monologues take a back seat to what comes off as good old-fashioned stand-up. She hits a number of celebrities from Lady Gaga to DeNiro in the 80s. She even manages some sophisticated self-parody for those quick enough to catch the spiraling references. But Ms. Bernhard’s cultural critique is always more sophisticated than it’s packaging and the targets are just as frequently ourselves as they are the rich and famous. She’s got guest stars this time too, who included Kevin Cronin on opening night joining the comedian for a rendition of “Can’t Fight This Feeling”. As with any new material, some of the bits are still a work in progress, but anyone who has ever loved Ms. Bernhard, or even just liked her a little in passing, will be pleased with what she’s serving up at REDCAT over these two weeks through June 10th.

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