The trailblazing actor and comedian on asserting her bisexuality in the 80s, misogynistic male comics – and befriending Madonna

During nearly five decades in showbiz, Sandra Bernhard has racked up title after title – comedian, actor, singer, author, radio host – and a reputation for controversy. She has worked with a long list of superstars, from Richard Pryor and Robin Williams to Robert De Niro and Cyndi Lauper. But she has never been overshadowed; her force of personality has guaranteed that. Even 30 years ago, the Los Angeles Times was paying homage to her “acid-tongued, antagonistic persona”.

But there are no cutting remarks today. On this sunny morning in LA, she appears relaxed, in a pink-striped shirt and trousers, reminiscent of the early 80s outfits she wore for her many appearances on Late Night With David Letterman.

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