She was born in Beverly Hills, California, the daughter of radio ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and Frances Westerman. As a child she was often referred to as "Charlie McCarthy's Little Sister", which irritated her.
She began her career as a fashion model, but soon began appearing as an actress in such films as Carnal Knowledge and Starting Over, where she received an Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for best supporting actress.
Bergen was the first female host of Saturday Night Live, where she was eaten by a Landshark.
On Murphy Brown she played a tough television reporter. Although the show was a successful comedy, it tackled important issues: Murphy Brown became a single mother and later battled breast cancer.
On May 19, 1992, then Vice President Dan Quayle spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, California. During his speach, he criticized the Murphy Brown character for ignoring the importance of fathers and bearing a child alone. His remarks caused a public discussion on family values which culminated in an episode where the television characters reacted to Quayle's comments.
After Murphy Brown, Bergen has appeared in character roles in films, most notably Miss Congeniality.