- Posted May 2, 2012 by
Palm Springs, California
People Making A Difference: Roseanne Barr
Roseanne Cherrie Barr (born November 3, 1952) is an American actress, comedian, writer, television producer and director. Barr began her career in stand-up comedy at clubs before gaining fame for her role in the sitcom Roseanne. The show was a hit and lasted nine seasons, from 1988 to 1997. She won both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her work on the show. Barr had crafted a "fierce working-class domestic goddess" persona in the eight years preceding her sitcom and wanted to do a realistic show about a strong mother who was not a victim of patriarchal consumerism.
The granddaughter of immigrants from Europe and Russia, Barr was the oldest of four children in a working-class Jewish Salt Lake City family; she was also active in the LDS Church. In 1974 she married Bill Pentland, with whom she had three children, before divorcing in 1990 and marrying comedian Tom Arnold for four years. Controversy arose when she sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" off-key at a 1990 nationally aired baseball game, followed by spitting and grabbing her crotch.
After her sitcom ended, she launched her own talk show, The Roseanne Show, which aired from 1998 to 2000. In 2005, she returned to stand-up comedy with a world tour. In 2011, she began starring in an unscripted TV show, Roseanne's Nuts, about her life on a Hawaiian farm.
1 Early life
2.1 Stand-up comedian success: 1980–1986
2.2 Roseanne sitcom, film, books, and talk show: 1987–2004
2.3 Return to stand-up, television guest appearances, and radio: 2005–2010
2.4 Reality television, new sitcom and politics: 2011–present
3 2012 Presidential campaign
4 Personal life
9 External links
The oldest of four children, Barr was born in Salt Lake City to a working-class Jewish family. Her mother, Helen (née Davis), was a bookkeeper and cashier. Her father, Jerome Hershel "Jerry" Barr, worked as a salesman. Barr's grandparents and great-grandparents were immigrants from Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania and Austria-Hungary, and her paternal grandfather changed his surname from "Borisofsky" to "Barr" upon entering the United States.
Her Jewish upbringing was influenced by her devoutly Orthodox Jewish maternal grandmother. Barr's parents kept their Jewish heritage secret from their neighbors and were partially involved in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Barr has stated, "Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning I was a Jew; Sunday afternoon, Tuesday afternoon, and Wednesday afternoon we were Mormons". When Barr was three years old, she got Bell's palsy on the left side of her face. Barr said, "[so] my mother called in a rabbi to pray for me, but nothing happened. Then my mother got a Mormon preacher, he prayed, and I was miraculously cured". Years later Barr learned that Bell's palsy was usually temporary and that the Mormon preacher came "exactly at the right time". At six years old, Barr discovered her first public stage by lecturing LDS churches around Utah and even was elected president of a Mormon youth group.
At 16, Barr was hit by a car that left her with a traumatic brain injury. Her behavior changed so radically that she was institutionalized for eight months at Utah State Hospital. In 1970 at age 18, Barr left home by telling her parents she was going to visit a friend in Colorado for two weeks, but never returned.
Stand-up comedian success: 1980–1986
While in Colorado, Barr did stand-up gigs in Denver and other Colorado clubs. She later tried out at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles and went on to appear on The Tonight Show in 1985. In 1986, she performed on Late Night With David Letterman and the following year had her own HBO special called The Roseanne Barr Show, which earned her an American Comedy Award for the funniest female performer in a television special. Barr was offered the role of Peg Bundy in Married... with Children but turned it down. In her routine she popularized the phrase, "domestic goddess," to refer to a homemaker or housewife. The success of her act led to her own series on ABC, called Roseanne.
Roseanne sitcom, film, books, and talk show: 1987–2004
In 1987, The Cosby Show executive producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner wanted to bring a "no-perks family comedy" to television. They hired Cosby writer Matt Williams to write a script about factory workers and signed Barr to play Roseanne Conner. The show premiered on October 18, 1988 and was watched by 21.4 million households, making it the highest-rated debut of that season.
Barr became outraged when she watched the first episode of Roseanne and noticed that in the credits, Williams was listed as creator. She told Tanner Stransky of Entertainment Weekly, "We built the show around my actual life and my kids. The 'domestic goddess', the whole thing". In the same interview, Werner said, "I don't think Roseanne, to this day, understands that this is something legislated by the Writers Guild, and it's part of what every show has to deal with. They're the final arbiters." During the first season, Barr sought more creative control over the show opposing Williams' authority. Barr refused to say certain lines and eventually walked off set. She threatened to quit the show if Williams did not leave. ABC let Williams go after the thirteenth episode.
Roseanne ran for nine seasons from 1988 to 1997. Barr won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Kids Choice Award, and three American Comedy Awards for her part in the show. For the final two seasons, Barr earned $40 million, making her the second-highest-paid woman in show business at the time, after Oprah Winfrey.
Barr attending the 1992 Emmy Awards
Barbara Ehrenreich called Barr a working-class spokesperson representing "the hopeless underclass of the female sex: polyester-clad, overweight occupants of the slow track; fast-food waitresses, factory workers, housewives, members of the invisible pink-collar army; the despised, the jilted, the underpaid," but a master of "the kind of class-militant populism that the Democrats, most of them anyway, never seem to get right." Barr refuses to use the term "blue collar" because it masks the issue of class.
During Roseanne's final season, Barr was in negotiations between Carsey-Werner Productions and ABC executives on continuing to play Roseanne Conner in a spin-off. However, after failed discussions with ABC, and later CBS and Fox, Carsey-Werner and Barr agreed not to go on with the negotiations.
Barr gave Joss Whedon and Judd Apatow their first writing jobs on Roseanne and HBO Comedy Hour: Roseanne Arnold, respectively. She released her autobiography in 1989, titled Roseanne—My Life As a Woman. That same year, she made her film debut in She-Devil playing Ruth. Film critic Roger Ebert gave her a positive review saying, "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 sound foundation for her comic acting".
On July 25, 1990, Barr performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" before a baseball game between the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds at Jack Murphy Stadium. As she later claimed, she was initially having trouble hearing herself over the public-address system, so she was singing as loudly as possible, and her rendition of the song sounded "screechy". Following her rendition, she mimicked the often-seen actions of players by spitting and grabbing her crotch as if adjusting a protective cup. Barr claimed she had been encouraged by baseball officials to "bring humor to the song". The song and the closing routine received heavy media attention and offended many, including President George H. W. Bush, who called her rendition "disgraceful."
In 1991, she voiced the baby, Julie, in Look Who's Talking Too. She was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. She appeared three times on Saturday Night Live from 1991 to 1994, co-hosting with then-husband Tom Arnold in 1992. In 1994, she released a second book title, My Lives. That same year, Barr became the first female comedian to host the MTV Video Music Awards on her own. She remained the only to have done so until comedian Chelsea Handler hosted in 2010. In 1997, she made guest appearances on 3rd Rock from the Sun and The Nanny.
In 1998, she portrayed the Wicked Witch of the West in a production of The Wizard of Oz at Madison Square Garden. That same year, Barr hosted her own talk show, The Roseanne Show, which ran for two years before it was canceled in 2000. In the summer of 2003, she took on the dual role of hosting a cooking show called Domestic Goddess and starring in a reality show called The Real Roseanne Show about hosting a cooking show. Although 13 episodes were in production; a hysterectomy brought a premature end to both projects. In 2004, she voiced Maggie, one of the main characters in the animated film Home on the Range.
Return to stand-up, television guest appearances, and radio: 2005–2010
In 2005, she returned to stand-up comedy with a world tour. In February 2006, Barr performed her first-ever live dates in Europe as part of the Leicester Comedy Festival in Leicester, England. The shows took place at De Montfort Hall. She released her first children's DVD, Rockin' with Roseanne: Calling All Kids, that month. Roseanne's return to the stage culminated in an HBO Comedy Special Roseanne Barr: Blonde N Bitchin', which aired November 4, 2006, on HBO. Two nights earlier, Roseanne returned to prime-time network TV with a guest spot on NBC's My Name Is Earl, playing a crazy trailer park manager. In April 2007 Barr hosted season three of The Search for the Funniest Mom in America on Nick at Nite.
Barr giving an interview in the 2010 documentary, I Am Comic
In March 2008, she headlined in act at the Sahara Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. From 2009 to 2010, she hosted a politically-themed radio show on KPFK. Since 2008 she and partner Johnny Argent have hosted a weekly radio show Sundays on KCAA in the Los Angeles area called "The Roseanne and Johnny Show". On March 23, 2009 it was announced that Barr would be returning to primetime with a new sitcom, where she would once again play the matriarch. Jim Vallely of Arrested Development had been tapped to pen the series. She later stated on her website that the project had been canceled.
On April 15, 2009 Barr made an appearance on Bravo's 2nd Annual A-List Awards in the opening scenes. She played Kathy Griffin's fairy godmother, granting her wish to be on the A-List for one night only. Barr headlined the inaugural Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival in February 2010, a project of the Traverse City Film Festival, founded by filmmaker Michael Moore. Moore developed the comedy fest with comedian Jeff Garlin. In 2010, Barr appeared in Jordan Brady's documentary about stand-up comedy, I Am Comic.
Reality television, new sitcom and politics: 2011–present
On January 4, 2011, Barr released her third book, titled Roseannearchy: Dispatches from the Nut Farm. Barr appeared in 2011 on a Super Bowl XLV commercial for Snickers along with comedian Richard Lewis. It was the most popular ad based on the number of TiVo users rewinding and watching it over. On February 14, 2011, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Lifetime Television had ordered 16 half-hour episodes featuring Barr, boyfriend Johnny Argent and son Jake as they run a macadamia nut and live stock farm in Big Island, Hawaii. The reality show, titled Roseanne's Nuts, was produced by 3 Ball Productions/Eyeworks USA (The Biggest Loser) and premiered on July 13, 2011. On September 21, 2011 Lifetime cancelled Roseanne's Nuts.
On August 11, 2011 it was reported that Barr was working on a new sitcom with 20th Century Fox Television tentatively titled Downwardly Mobile. Steven Greener, who also executive produced her reality show Roseanne's Nuts, will also executive produce the sitcom. Eric Gilliland is attached as co-creator, writer and executive producer; Gilliland was also a writer on Barr's previous sitcom Roseanne. The show will be set in a mobile home community and use a multiple-camera setup. In October 2011, NBC picked up the show.
2012 Presidential campaign
On August 5, 2011 Barr appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and announced her candidacy for president in the 2012 presidential election, running on the "Green Tea Party" ticket. Her candidacy mixes attention to economics, personal health and meditation. She also said that she is running for Prime Minister of Israel. In an interview with the The Forward she invoked tikkun olam in her support of bringing women into politics and religion. On September 19, 2011 she appeared at the Occupy Wall Street protests and spoke in support of the protestors. She further stated that any "guilty" Wall Street bankers should be forced to give up any income over $100 million, be sent to re-education camps, or be executed by beheading if they resisted.
Barr filed with the Federal Election Commission as a Green Party presidential candidate in January 2012. She formally announced her candidacy for the party's 2012 presidential nomination on February 2, 2012.
In 1970, when she was 17, Barr had a child that she placed for adoption; they were later reunited. On February 4, 1974 Barr married Bill Pentland, a motel clerk she met while in Colorado. They had three children: Jessica, Jennifer, and Jake. Pentland and Barr divorced on January 16, 1990. Four days later on January 20, 1990, Barr married fellow comedian Tom Arnold, and became known as Roseanne Arnold during the marriage. Barr had met Arnold in 1983 in Minneapolis where he opened for her stand-up comedy act. In 1988, Barr brought Arnold onto her sitcom, Roseanne, as a writer.
Barr has a lesbian sister, Geraldine Barr, and a gay brother, Ben Barr, both of whom inspired her to introduce gay characters into her sitcom. Barr has stated that she supports gay marriage. Geraldine was also Barr's manager while performing in comedy clubs and at the start of her sitcom. Geraldine claimed that Arnold tried to dominate Barr "for his own reasons". After being fired by Roseanne, Geraldine filed a $70.3 million breach of contract lawsuit in Superior Court of Los Angeles County on December 18, 1991. She said Barr promised her half the earnings from the Roseanne show for helping invent the "domestic goddess" character in 1981, serving as "writer, organizer, accountant, bookkeeper and confidante". Since it was six months past the statute of limitations, the suit was thrown out.
In a 1991 interview with People, Roseanne revealed herself to be an "incest survivor", accusing both of her parents of physical and sexual abuse, claims which they and Geraldine publicly denied. Melvin Belli, her parents' lawyer, said that they had passed a lie detector test "with flying colors". Barr was even part of an incest recovery group, something she said her parents knew about but for which they were "in denial". On February 14, 2011, Barr and Geraldine appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show where Barr admitted that the word "incest" could have been the wrong word to use and should have waited until her therapy was over before revealing the "darkest time" in her life. She told Oprah, "I was in a very unhappy relationship and I was prescribed numerous psychiatric drugs... to deal with the fact that I had some mental illness... I totally lost touch with reality... (and) I didn’t know what the truth was... I just wanted to drop a bomb on my family". She added that not everything was "made up", saying, "Nobody accuses their parents of abusing them without justification". Geraldine said they did not speak for 12 years, but had recently reconciled.
Barr filed for divorce from Tom Arnold on April 18, 1994 in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, citing irreconcilable differences. Their efforts to have children were unsuccessful. On February 14, 1995, Barr married Ben Thomas, her one-time personal security guard, at Caesars Tahoe with a reception at Planet Hollywood. In November 1994, she become pregnant through in-vitro fertilization and they have a son named Buck. The couple stayed together until 2002.
In the mid-1990s Barr had multiple cosmetic surgeries performed, such as a breast reduction, tummy tuck, and a nose job. During the late 1990s she had gastric bypass surgery.
In 2002, Barr met Johnny Argent online after running a writing competition on her blog and began dating him in 2003, after a year of phone conversations. They live on a 46-acre macadamia nut farm located on the Big Island of Hawaii. Barr purchased the property in 2007 for $1.78 million. Barr has studied Kabbalah at the Kabbalah Centre and frequently comments on the discipline.