Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Ryan Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Frost
Roseanne, 2012 Presidential Candidate
Currently Known For:
Actress, Comedian, Writer, and Television Producer
1980s - Present
November 3, 1952
Roseanne, 2012 Presidential Candidate
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“I used to want to be a movie star, so I wouldn’t have to live in trailers anymore. And now that I make movies, I spend a lot of my life living in trailers.” Running away from home at 18 years old and spending the next few years as a housewife frazzled by managing life at home with three kids, Roseanne Barr courageously launched her career as a stand-up comedian in the mid-1980s when she used her experience as a “domestic goddess” to entertain mature audiences. With her jokes striking a chord, it wasn’t long before Barr was dubbed a rising star in the comedy industry, which is exactly how she ended up with her own television series on ABC, Roseanne. Premiering in 1988 and starring Barr opposite her on-screen husband, John Goodman, the series was a massive hit and spent nine seasons on air earning Barr a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award for Best Actress.
In the years since the show ended in 1997, Barr hosted her own talk show and returned to stand-up before giving fans even more of what they wanted in 2018 when she reprised her role as the loud-mouthed matriarch in the Roseanne reboot. The 10th season of Roseanne premiered in March 2018 to over 30 million viewers, which gave ABC the greenlight to purchase an 11th season. However, things haven’t exactly gone as planned over the last few months after Barr turned to Twitter to share a few controversial tweets that have since ousted her from Hollywood’s good graces. As a result, Roseanne was canceled in May 2018 with Barr blacklisted in the industry as her on-screen family is set to return without her in the spinoff series, The Conners, which is set to air in October 2018. So, how will Barr fare in Hollywood after the controversy? Let’s find out!
Early Life and Career
“I always was a writer, but then I wanted to stand-up because I thought that was a way that I could perform what I wrote.” Long before she found herself in the media’s crosshairs, Roseanne Cherrie Barr came into this world on November 3, 1952 in Salt Lake City, Utah where her father was a salesman and her mother was a bookkeeper. Raised in a discreetly Jewish home amid a heavily Mormon community, Barr often jokes, “Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning I was a Jew; Sunday afternoon, Tuesday afternoon, and Wednesday afternoon we were Mormons.”
Outside of her religious practices, Barr led a normal life and was six years old when she discovered her knack for entertaining after she was named the president of a Mormon youth group and was asked to give a speech at various churches affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Barr found it easy to speak in front of others, but that talent was overshadowed in her teens when the 16-year-old Barr was hit by a car and left with a traumatic brain injury that altered her behavior. At the time, she was also pregnant; so, between her extreme behavior and a baby on the way, she was institutionalized for eight months at the Utah State Hospital where she received mental health treatment, gave birth, and put her child up for adoption.
After she was released from the hospital, Barr returned home but had bigger plans in the works. Once she turned 18, she packed her bags and told her parents she was going to Colorado to visit a friend for two weeks; however, she never returned. Instead, she settled down in Colorado where she met and fell in love with a motel clerk named Bill Pentland. Marrying in 1974, they soon started a family with the birth of three children—Jessica, Jennifer, and Jake.
While Barr seemed content with her life as a housewife, she wanted something more and knew she had a knack for comedy. Inspired by her own experience as a housewife, she spent a year writing jokes before venturing into her first open-mic night at a Denver bar in 1980. “I went to the open mic night at a comedy club in Denver in 1980 with five minutes of jokes that took me about a year to write,” Barr said of her early debut. “I came back every Monday night for months and slowly added more nights over about a year. Then I began to headline small clubs and then went to LA—got booked on The Tonight Show my first night in town!”
Once in Los Angeles, Barr tried out at The Comedy Store and made her first appearance on The Tonight Show in 1985. From there, she performed alongside Rodney Dangerfield in 1986 and made the rounds on late night television before landing her first HBO special, The Roseanne Barr Show, which earned her an American Comedy Award as the funniest female performer. With her career blossoming, she was offered the role of Peggy Bundy on Fox’s newest series, Married… with Children, but she turned down the part just in time for ABC to offer her the starring role in her own series, Roseanne.
Bringing Roseanne to Life
“The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.” Often joking about her life as a “domestic goddess,” Barr’s comedy caught the attention of ABC executives who gave her a huge opportunity to work with The Cosby Show executive producers to bring a “no-perks family comedy” to life. “TV family sitcoms have always been about fathers who know best and mothers who are so enchanted with everything they do,” Barr said of the inspiration for the series. “I wanted to be the first mom to be a mom on TV. I wanted to send out a message about how us women really feel.”
Doing exactly that, Barr teamed up with The Cosby Show writer Matt Williams to create the new series, Roseanne, which premiered on October 18, 1988 to an audience of over 21 million viewers, a new record for primetime television. However, the pilot wasn’t exactly a huge win for Barr who noticed that Williams was credited for creating the show—a show based on her life as a “domestic goddess” to her husband and kids. Enraged by being overshadowed, Barr pushed for more creative control over the show and ignited a lot of controversy on the set until ABC fired Williams after the 13th episode. Barr replaced him with Joss Whedon and Amy Sherman-Palladino, the latter of whom would go on to create the popular series, Gilmore Girls.
With Barr in creative control and with new writers in place, Roseanne flourished over the next nine seasons and earned numerous awards including a Peabody Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Awards. Barr herself took home a Golden Globe Award, an Emmy Award, a Kids Choice Award, and three American Comedy Awards in addition to a $40 million salary during the show’s final two seasons that made her the second highest paid woman in television behind talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
Amid her success on the long-running sitcom, Barr was determined to extend her reach in the industry and released her autobiography, Roseanne—My Life as a Woman, in 1989. The same year, she made her silver screen debut in She-Devil, which earned her widespread praise from film critic Roger Ebert who wrote, “Barr could have made an easy, predictable and dumb comedy at any point in the last couple of years. Instead, she took her chances with an ambitious project—a real movie. It pays off, in that Barr demonstrates that there is a core of reality inside her TV persona, a core of identifiable human feelings like jealousy and pride, and they provide a solid foundation for her comic acting.”
Barr didn’t stop there and voiced a baby in Look Who’s Talking Too in 1991 while adding in several appearances on Saturday Night Live in the early 1990s. During this time, she divorced her husband of 16 years and, just four days later on January 20, 1990, married comedian Tom Arnold, whom she brought onto Roseanne as a writer. Eventually divorcing Arnold in 1994, Barr released her second book, My Lives, and became the first female comedian to host the MTV Video Music Awards.
The End of an Era and a Grand Return
Barr wrapped up Roseanne in 1997 and turned her attention to other projects like her talk show, The Roseanne Show, which ran for two years before it was canceled in 2000. She hosted the short-lived cooking show, Domestic Goddess, as well as reality series like The Real Roseanne Shows and Roseanne’s Nuts but couldn’t find the same level of success as her sitcom, which is what led her back on the road with her 2005 stand-up comedy world tour. Shortly after, she returned to the stage in HBO’s Comedy Special Roseanne Barr: Blonde N Bitchin’ and even headlined an act on the Las Vegas Strip in 2008.
Going on to host a political radio show and even teaming up with her partner, Johnny Argent whom she met online in 2003, to host a weekly radio show in Los Angeles called The Roseanne and Johnny Show, Barr teased that another family sitcom was in the works only to announce that the project had been canceled in late 2009. This gave Barr even more time to focus on projects like her third book, Roseannearchy: Dispatches from the Nut Farm, which she wrote from her 46-acre macadamia nut farm that she purchased in 2007 for $1.78 million on the Big Island of Hawaii. Settling into life in Hawaii, she started studying the Kabbalah and even ventured into the political arena with an unsuccessful run for president in 2012 saying, “I’m not a politician. I think that uniquely qualifies me to become President of the United States.” Initially losing the Green Party nomination, she won the presidential nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party and appeared on the ballot in California, Colorado, and Florida receiving only 0.05% of the popular vote.
Over the next few years, Barr made sporadic appearances on television before news broke that she and most of the original cast were on board to return in a special eight-episode revival of Roseanne in 2018. “I just want to do well, I want to get renewed,” Barr said of the show’s return. “We used to get 40 million viewers a week, now you get three million. I’m just hoping to get six million? There were only four networks or something back then, so now there’s like 900. There’s a lot of competition.”
Fortunately, the revival was a huge hit for ABC with the first episode of the 10th season premiering to exceptional ratings in March 2018 and prompting ABC to renew the series for an 11th season. However, the good news didn’t last long as Barr took her off-the-cuff humor too far when she posted a series of controversial tweets on Twitter that referred to former Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett as if the “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby.” The backlash was almost instantaneous as Barr was called a racist in an act that prompted ABC to cancel the show within hours.
Blacklisted in the industry, Barr has since apologized for her remarks. “I can’t let ‘em say these things about that after 30 years of my putting my family and my health and my livelihood at risk to stand up for people,” Barr said. “I’m a lot of things, a loud mouth and all that stuff but I'm not stupid for God’s sake. I never would have wittingly called any black person, I would never had said they are a monkey. There’s no excuse. I don’t excuse it. It’s an explanation. I was impaired you know, and I horribly regret it.”
While ABC canceled Roseanne, Barr reached an agreement with the network and relinquished her rights as a producer and star in the new spinoff, The Conners. “I lost everything, and I regretted it before I lost everything,” Barr says. “And I said to God, ‘I am willing to accept whatever consequences that brings because I know I’ve done wrong. I’m going to accept what the consequences are,’ and I do, and I have.”