This recording of actress/comedian Sandra Bernhard's one-woman show of the same name provides a more straightforward framing of the performer's distinctive blend of comedy, pop-cultural banter, and performance art than the 1990 adaptation of her show Without You I'm Nothing. That film added an overriding narrative to a studio re-creation of Bernhard's act, but here we get a straightforward concert taping, which puts the emphasis on Bernhard's indelible stage persona, her brilliant sense of timing, and her ability to interact with a live audience. The overriding theme of Bernhard's monologues is the absurdity of our technologically advanced, media-saturated lives and the enduring if troubling allure of celebrity icons, from Cher and Heart to Jewel and Mariah Carey. "Give me Joan Jett with a shag haircut and a black eye," Bernhard proclaims, protesting the whineyness of Fiona Apple and other '90s alt-rock starlets; she even violates her own non-disclosure policy about her well-publicized and enduring spat with former friend Madonna, joking about the pop star's study of the Jewish Kabbalah before launching into an uncharacteristically heartfelt sung prayer. The emergence of sincere spirituality into Bernhard's act marks a new level of maturity in the performer's repertoire; if the studied superficiality of much of the rest doesn't quite gel with this new element, well, Bernhard has always been a study in contradictions. A theorist would argue that her act is an attempt to foreground the fleeting trivialities with which Americans distract themselves from the messier things in life, but thankfully the artist herself doesn't weigh us down with such conceptual baggage. Instead, she leaves us with 90 minutes of her hilariously and sarcastically perceptive persona, no theoretical background required.
by Brian J. Dillard review