Maybe you know her from her four comedy albums, "Without You I'm Nothing," "I'm Still Here Damn It!," "Everything Bad and Beautiful," and "I Love Being Me, Don't You?" Or perhaps you remember her groundbreaking work on TV series "Roseanne," her critically acclaimed turn in Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy," or even one of her books or music albums. Or perhaps you've caught her offering up cultural criticism on Bravo's "Watch What Happens Live." No matter how you've become acquainted with this frank, funny woman, there's no denying her gift for pithy and provocative sociopolitical commentary. Most relevantly, she called out our obsessions with apps like Twitter and Grindr on her last comedy album.
Download.com caught up with Sandra Bernhard to talk about her favorite apps, schooling her daughter on the importance of real communication, her distaste for selfies and spotlight grabbers, and the importance of keeping it simple both online and off.
On your last comedy album, 2010's "I Love Being Me, Don't You?", you mentioned that you still used a flip phone. Out of curiosity, have you made the leap to smartphones yet?
I have the iPhone 4S. It's very convenient when I'm on the road and need to text people or e-mail, and if I'm on the road for a couple of days and don't want to schlep my computer, I can still get stuff done. I prefer working on my computer. I even bought an iPad under the delusion that it was going to be like a computer, and then I got it home and was thinking, "What am I doing with this?" It's like a giant phone, and I was miserable with it. I hated typing on it, and then I got the keyboard that you connect it to, to type, but then you have to charge that thing, so I took it back to Apple and got a credit. So now when I need real things or my daughter needs something, I have my Apple credit. Eventually I'll need a new phone and a new computer, but the iPad to me is useless. I don't read on the iPad -- I still buy books -- so it doesn't interest me.
So what apps are you using on your iPhone?
I use something called WhoSay, and that's for performer-type people so you retain the rights to your photos and writing. When I put out a funny or interesting tweet or Facebook, Google+, or Instagram post -- all that you can launch from WhoSay, and it protects the rights to your message.
When I'm on the road, I'll read Huffington Post on my phone, I have Pandora, although I don't really listen to the music, I have MenuPages, which when I'm on the road is helpful. But I'll tell you, what I really enjoy using is Tennis Channel Everywhere. I'm a Serena and Venus Williams fanatic, so if I'm on the road and desperate, I can watch a little match on my phone.
My daughter has tons of stuff, and because we share the iCloud, it always ends up on my phone, and I just delete it because most of the stuff is unnecessary and I would never use it.
How hands-on are you in terms of what's on her device?
Last year was more of an issue. She didn't have her own phone until she was 13, and now she's a sophomore in high school, and all the assignments are given electronically, so she has an iPad, she has a Mac Air, and everything is done on the computer.
Last year was a little bit iffy, because it was her first year of high school and things were a bit looser, and this year's hard-core -- homework, homework, homework. We went to Europe this summer, and she didn't bring her phone or her computer because she was out on a farm in Italy, so it kind of broke her of it a little bit, and I think she's been less on Facebook. Mainly she listens to music, and she does text with her friends. I think she really got it out of her system, and this year there's no messing around. She's too busy to spend time doing it, so I don't worry about it.
She's a smart kid, and we've been very up-front about what all this means and where the world is headed and being able to be a good communicator and being verbal -- and she's all of those things, so I'm not worried about it anymore. I think she took it in, and she digested it and does it in a balanced way.
Since you use magazine apps and your partner worked at Vanity Fair, have you tried VF's new app?
We know everybody there and are still friends with everybody, and I never heard her mention the app. The magazine gets sent to us every month, so it's enough. On my computer, I go to Jezebel, I go to the Daily Mail, and depending on the season, I'll go to the Daily Kos, but I like to read things in hard copy. The only time I like to have that is if I'm traveling and staying somewhere that doesn't have good magazines. Then I like to see what's going on and would turn to apps.
You've been a prolific tweeter for so long, both on the road and from home. Do you still enjoy tweeting, or has it lost its luster?
When I have a funny thought or good idea, I love putting it up, because I know I'll get a good response; I know I'll tickle people, so then it's fun. But a lot of times it's on a schedule, to let people know where I'm going to be, where I'm performing. But I try to do it when genuinely I'm going to say something, because I don't want to just make things up or clog up the airspace.
I don't post pictures very often. I think it's terribly indulgent. I do not like Instagram. I don't understand why people do it. I do it sometimes, but it's always in conjunction with traveling to my gigs. But then it's fun, because people want to see what you're doing or who's there, because it's relevant. But then there's this constant, weird stream of selfies and pictures and your baby and doggy, and I love my dog, but my dog wants some privacy too, you know? I don't want to exploit George; he doesn't need that sh*t.
You mean he doesn't have his own Twitter page?
No, but his pet concierge does, and he gets picked up every day by this fabulous woman and her two people, and they have a blog, and it's really cute. But George has demanded some anonymity in his life.
I know you recently officiated the Fab.com founder's wedding. Do you shop over apps or ever do social shopping?
No, I do not. If we needed a new bed skirt on our bed because George threw up on it like he did the other day, if we have to get stuff like that or my daughter needs something for school, for those kinds of things. But I would say that 90 percent of the time I still go shopping to Bed Bath & Beyond to get replacements for my SodaStream.
I'm on the move, I'm moving around, and I don't want my credit card number out there in too many places. My girlfriend goes to J.Crew online and gets stuff on sale; she really enjoys that, but I am just not that interested. It drives me nuts. For some things I like to look at things, see the quality, because what it looks like on the computer is not what it's going to look like when you get it home.
You joked about Grindr on your last comedy album, and I was wondering what you think about the explosion in GPS-based hookup apps?
I've never given it a second thought, honey; it plays no part in my life, and I really don't know anyone who uses it and don't keep up on it. It was perfect, because I was in San Francisco, and that's where I recorded that album. And it all kind of happened on the spot, so I put it in the show, but in terms of my interest in it or connection to it, it's absolutely zilch.
So what interests you these days?
You know, it's very eclectic. There was a great story in The New York Times last week about a spacecraft that was sent out in 1977 that's just now going beyond our solar system. It's going out of the sun's reach, and it's continued to beam back information from outer space. It has an eight-track tape player in it, and it was sent out when the computer was rudimentary, but it still does its job. I was very touched by it.
It was very emotional, because when you think about this little spacecraft going on and on for light years out in space and what it'll send back to us and the idea of infinity and what is out there...it's overwhelming and inspiring all at once. And now more than ever, with everyone weighing in on everything and grabbing things and trying to be in the public eye, the idea of space and openness and simplicity is the most inspiring thing that there is.
There's just too much talk and too much anger and too much need, and people do things from an incredibly reactive place. I obsess over the fact that there are too many people in the world and a lack of respect for things like food and things that grow and the earth and water. Once again, it all comes back to simplicity, quiet introspection, walking away from the computer, walking away from chatter, and being able to walk down the road and look at the vista. If more people allowed themselves to do that and have regular conversations with each other, then there'd be less of this frenetic, frantic feeling that the world seems to be caught up in. That's the thing that's the most interesting to me: quietude, introspection, and time with people I really enjoy, good food, being respectful, not needing too much stuff -- keeping it simple.