Renowned comedian Sandra Bernhard has insisted she has no regrets over using the N-word during a performance in the 1990s – despite being labelled racist by Naomi Campbell.
The Pose star, 66, used the racial slur during a stand-up special in 1998 when she described Mariah Carey as ‘n*****ish’ and criticised her for spending time with ‘greasy, chain-wearing Black men’ while singling out Sean Combs.
Speaking to The Guardian, Sandra said she believed the joke was acceptable ‘social commentary’ when she said it but admitted comedy requires you to evolve ‘how you think’ as times change.
‘It was acceptable social commentary’: Renowned comedian Sandra Bernhard has insisted she has no regrets over using the N-word during a performance in the 1990s
Supermodel Naomi described the offensive stand-up bit — from Sandra’s 1998 show ‘I’m Still Here… Damn It’ — as ‘so rude and disrespectful’ and ‘completely racist’ while speaking on her No Filter podcast last year.
But Sandra stood by the material this week and said she didn’t regret the problematic routine, despite the controversy it had brought with it when it resurfaced last August.
The comedian, who regularly laces her stand-up with political material, described the act as ‘social commentary’ but added that a key part of comedy is evolving how you think in line with modern society.
She explained: ‘It [comedy] forces you to constantly renew how you write and how you think…you adjust your material and approach. That’s part of evolving as an artist.’
Not a fan: The performer was labelled racist by Naomi Campbell last year who said her performance was ‘so rude and disrespectful’ on her No Filter podcast
Shocking: Sandra used the racial slur during a stand-up special in 1998 when she described Mariah Carey (left) as ‘n*****ish’ (pictured on Naomi’s Youtube channel in 2020)
Outrage at Sandra’s past performances grew when Mariah discussed the racially charged joked with Naomi in an intimate one-on-one chat over video call.
Naomi told Mariah: ‘People can be very hurtful, but one of the things that hurt me, because I care about you, was what Sandra said,’
‘I was just like, ‘Are you for real?’ How did that even slide by. It was so rude and disrespectful. And I will say it here: complete racist. You don’t say that!’ she continued.
‘You are black,’ she said, pointing toward Mariah. ‘You have every right. You are working also, in a professional capacity. I just felt like, now, I wanted to clear that up because I was p****d.’
‘Are you for real’: Naomi said Sandra’s material had left her ‘p****d’ and questioned how the offensive material had been allowed to ‘slide by’ without any reaction
Both Naomi and Mariah had spoken earlier in their chat about the impact of racism on their lives, but the model came back to the topic to share her outrage at Sandra’s comments.
In the 1998 routine Sandra said: ‘And now [Carey’s] trying to backtrack on our a**es, acting real ni****ish up there at the Royalton Hotel suite with Puff Daddy and all the greasy, chain-wearing Black men,’
”Oh yeah, Daddy. This feels kinda good. I didn’t know I would be into this,’ she continued, raising the pitch of her voice to impersonate the singer.
‘I’ve got a little bit of Black in me, too. I didn’t tell you that,’ she ended, referencing Mariah’s biracial background, which the singer has talked about throughout her career.
Unbelievable: In the 1998 routine Sandra said: ‘And now [Carey’s] trying to backtrack on our a**es, acting real ni****ish up there at the Royalton Hotel suite with Puff Daddy and all the greasy, chain-wearing Black men.’ (pictured in New York in 2019)
The offensive comedy act resurfaced in August 2020, but Mariah has been open about the hurt it caused for decades.
‘Sandra Bernhard used words about me that every African American I know — and definitely I personally — find inappropriate,’ she told Mirabella in 1999, as quoted by SFGate.
‘If my skin were two shades darker, she wouldn’t have done it. I think she perceives me as white, which is a common perception. And, yeah, I am a freaking mutt and interracial freak, but she implied I was a white person trying to be black. And it is offensive to me, because I’ve been the victim of racism on both sides!’
During her interview Sandra also reflected on becoming a revolutionary figure through her open bisexuality.
The star has been in a relationship with former Harper’s Bazaar editor Sara Switzer for over two decades, and also has a daughter, though she has never revealed the identity of her child’s father.
She said: ‘I didn’t feel like I was trying to make any big statement. That’s just who I was and what I was comfortable being. I always thought: just get over it and be who you are. When you’re not hiding, that’s the inspiration for people.’
‘If my skin were two shades darker, she wouldn’t have done it’: The offensive comedy act resurfaced in August 2020, but Mariah has been open about the hurt it caused for decades (pictured in January 2020 in New York)