Family & Companions
One of the most outspoken and successful comedians of the 1980s and 1990s, Roseanne Barr gave voice to the joys and frustrations of women's lives in Middle America; first, through her stand-up career, and later, as the star and producer of her own decade-defining sitcom "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-1997; 2018). The show was among the most honest portrayals of domestic life on television. In the decade following "Rosanne," Barr worked on several other television projects and even revived her stand-up career. Excitement arose in 2017 when ABC announced that they would be producing a revival of Barr's classic show, scheduled for a midseason debut on the network in 2018. There was no denying that Barr had struck a chord with middle-class viewers who, during her show's original run, made Barr one of the most powerful woman on television. The show's revival was successful with critics and audiences, and was initially renewed for a second season following bonanza ratings for its premiere. However, Barr's extreme political views on social media had become a lightning rod for the comic even before the reboot was announced, and she did not attempt to hide her views even in the bigger spotlight. Following statements made by Barr on Twitter, including a racist jab at former Barack Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett in May 2018, ABC elected not to go ahead with the second season after all.
Born Roseanne Cherrie Barr in Salt Lake City, UT on Nov. 3, 1952 to a bookkeeper mother and a salesman father, she found her calling in performance at an early age, often entertaining her family when they gathered for the Sabbath on Friday evenings. Reportedly, Barr's parents kept their Jewish identity hidden and instead maintained an interest in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to blend in with their neighbors. Barr was active in school plays, but sought a bigger audience outside of Utah. By the age of 17, she had dropped out of school and relocated to an artists' colony in Colorado. She was also reportedly involved in a car accident at this time, which resulted in post-traumatic stress and required a stint in a local institution. While there, she became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, Brandi Brown, whom she gave up for adoption (the pair would later reunite in 1989 and remain close). Three years later, she married Bill Pentland, with whom she had three children, two daughters and a son.
While working part-time as a waitress and window dresser, she was encouraged by customers to take her quick wit to comedy clubs. Gathering up the nerve, she stepped in front of the mike for the first time. By the early 1980s, she had risen to the top of the Denver comedy scene. Barr's comedy was based around her experiences as a housewife and mother, which she referred to collectively as "domestic goddesses." A dry and drawling delivery and a wickedly sharp tongue helped attract the attention of comics in Los Angeles, who asked her to try out for Mitzi Shore, legendary owner of the Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip. She nailed her audition and scored big with fickle L.A. crowds; she also landed one of her earliest television appearances on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (NBC, 1962-1992) in 1985 - the dream gig for any stand-up comic.
More television appearances led to being signed to her own ABC series, in which she starred as Roseanne Connor, the opinionated but open-minded force of nature at the center of a closely-knit blue-collar family in Illinois. Critics singled out the show for its humor, which was biting but affectionate, and for its portrayal of women, which was built on ideas and open dialogue rather than appearances. The show, which rose to No. 2 during its debut season, was not afraid to tackle controversial subjects, which included gay marriage, obesity, alcoholism, unemployment and domestic violence. All subjects were addressed during its network run, but the show refused to tap these issues for their hot-button quality or to turn them into moral soapboxes. Rather, they were all woven into one of the most accurate depictions of middle-class life on television. For its efforts, the show won a Golden Globe in 1993 and a Peabody Award in 1992. Barr herself, who had done little to no acting prior to the program's launch, won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her portrayal.
Though the Connor family managed to pull together despite all manner of troubles, Barr herself was frequently at the center of several domestic and business hurricanes that put her front and center on tabloids for the better part of a decade. Her marriage to Pentland, who had served as executive consultant on "Roseanne" during its first season, slowly unraveled between 1988 and 1990, due in no small part to Barr's growing romance with fellow comic and writer Tom Arnold. After Barr and Pentland divorced in 1990, she married Arnold just four days after the divorce was completed. Tongues wagged when the heretofore unknown Arnold rose conveniently and quickly to the rank of executive producer. By the midpoint of the show's network run, Barr had dismissed many of its writers and essentially taken over its production. The pair was open and brash about their success - Arnold referred to them as "America's worst nightmare: white trash with money" - and audiences found the joined-at-the-hip coupling either hilarious or repellant. A much-publicized comedy tour, followed by a short-lived 1992 series for Arnold (ABC's "The Jackie Thomas Show") and the opening of their own diner in 1993, did not endear them to their detractors, nor did Barr's very vocal feuding with ABC over their alleged failure to promote her husband's show.
Further affecting Barr's standing as spokesperson for America's working mothers and wives was a 1990 incident in which she deliberately mangled a performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner," following it up with a ballplayer-style spit and readjustment of her crotch. The performance was broadcast ad nauseam on television newscasts, which clucked over her lack of taste; even then-President George H.W. Bush weighed in on the controversy. This was soon followed by claims to the press in 1991 that she had been sexually abused by her parents as a child. Barr's parents and siblings both denied the charges and even took polygraph tests to prove their innocence. The incident resulted in a 10-year estrangement from her family. It seemed to outsider that Barr had gone off the rails; not surprisingly, Barr and Arnold divorced in 1994 under an unpleasant cloud of alleged spousal and child abuse
Barr's appearances outside "Roseanne" were infrequent. She was top-billed opposite Meryl Streep in "She-Devil" (1989), a film adaptation of the Fay Weldon novel that was a critical and commercial disappointment. She provided the voice of baby Julie in "Look Who's Talking Too" (1990) and made a cameo with Arnold (as themselves) in "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare" (1991). Barr and Arnold also co-starred in two TV movies, "Backfield in Motion" (1991) and "The Woman Who Loved Elvis" (1993), and were featured in the quirky documentary "Dancing Outlaw II: Jesco Goes to Hollywood" (1994), about an Appalachian eccentric who winds up a guest on "Roseanne." She also published her autobiography, Roseanne: My Life as a Woman and a subsequent book, My Lives which alleged that she suffered from multiple personality disorder.
The ratings on "Roseanne" began to decline in its seventh season (1994-95). The series, which had once bested "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992), had slipped into frequent stunt episodes and gag casting, though a storyline about Roseanne's unexpected pregnancy offered a spark of the series' previous level of quality. Barr herself married again that year, this time to her security guard, Ben Thomas, with whom she would have a son, Buck. "Roseanne" itself limped through its final two seasons, ending in 1997 after seeing the perennially hard-luck Connors enjoy a whirlwind tour of the country after winning the lottery. As with so many of Barr's projects and personal choices, the final season was a divisive issue among viewers, and concluded with a shocking finale that suggested that the entire final season had been a dream.
Following the series' conclusion, Barr served as executive producer and occasional guest star of a well-regarded sketch comedy series, "Saturday Night Special" (Fox, 1996), which failed to connect with audiences. She also played the Wicked Witch of the West in a glitzy production of "The Wizard of Oz" at Madison Square Garden in 1997; in typical Barr fashion, she made outlandish claims of studying serial killers to aid her portrayal of the Witch. The following year, she hosted her own talk show, "The Roseanne Show" (syndicated, 1998-2000), which fell off in ratings after a strong start during its first season.
Barr filed for divorce from Thomas in 1998 under allegations of his alcoholism and threats to abduct their son; the suit was soon dropped and audiences found her renewing her vows with Thomas in a 1999 episode of her talk show. The marriage lasted until 2002, when they divorced for good. Barr began exploring religion via Kabbalah, which apparently gave her some inner peace. She reunited with her family and returned to television with an offbeat idea: a reality show about Barr hosting a cooking show. The series, originally titled "Domestic Goddess" but later changed to "The Real Roseanne Show" (ABC, 2003) came to a halt when Barr fell ill during production, and it was cancelled after airing only a single episode.
Barr contributed her voice to the animated Disney feature "Home on the Range" in 2004; the following year, she reinstated her maiden surname and returned to stand-up with an international tour, including an appearance at Comic Relief in 2006 and her first dates in Europe. Audiences noted that her appearance had changed somewhat since her last television appearances; in addition to changing her hair from brunette to blonde - her 2006 HBO special was "Roseanne Barr: Blond N Bitchin'" - Barr had undergone some plastic surgery, including a rhinoplasty for sleep apnea and a breast reduction. During this same period, she also surprised many by exploring a singing career; the result of this phase was a children's DVD called "Rockin' with Rosie," which was released through her own production company in 2006. And there were well-received guest appearances on television series like "My Name is Earl" (NBC, 2005-09). Naturally, this spawned rumors of a return to network television, most notably with a recurring role on "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-2012).
In 2007, Barr replaced Sandra Bernhard as the host of "The Search for America's Funniest Mom" (Nick at Nite, 2005), a reality series about women whose own lives paralleled hers. That same year, she began hosting her own radio talk show on KCAA in Los Angeles. The program was off to a rocky start when her comments about gays and political activism garnered negative media attention. She also maintained her own website, RoseanneWorld.com, which gave voice to her many political and social concerns. In early 2011, Barr released her third book, Rosannearchy: Dispatches from the Nut Farm, followed that summer by the premiere of "Rosanne's Nuts" (Lifetime, 2011), a reality series capturing the exploits of Barr, her boyfriend, Johnny Argent, and her son as they attempt to run a macadamia farm on the Big Island of Hawaii. By the fall of that year, the show had been cancelled, although an unfazed Barr had apparently already moved on to loftier endeavors. After voicing her intentions to host Jay Leno on his late night talk show the previous summer, Barr made headlines in February 2012 when she officially filed paperwork as a Green Party candidate in the presidential elections to be held later that year. Although not expecting to become the party's nominee, she stated that she eagerly looked forward to debating many socio-economic issues in the months ahead.
Barr continued to known primarily for her political statements on social media for the next several years, which included frequent charged condemnations of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and support of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Roseanne also tweeted regularly about several well-known right-wing conspiracy theories, including several collectively known as "Pizzagate" and "The Storm." Despite these social media activities, ABC premiered a reboot of "Roseanne" in the spring of 2018. Featuring the show's entire original cast (including a role for Sarah Chalke, who had replaced Alicia Goransen as Becky for part of the show's original run), the show picked up the Connors' story in 2018, including the fact that Roseanne Connor, like Roseanne Barr, was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump. The show garnered strong ratings, despite a decline as the novelty of the reboot wore off. Controversy still swirled around the star for her social media posts and the plotline of an episode where Roseanne Connor thought her new Muslim neighbors were terrorists. The series had been renewed for a second season almost immediately, but on the morning of May 29, 2018, Roseanne Barr sent out a tweet that compared Barack Obama's African-American advisor Valerie Jarrett to the "Muslim Brotherhood and the Planet of the Apes." The tweet, though not dissimilar to hundreds of others Barr had posted over the years, was the final straw: the series' head writer, Wanda Sykes, announced that she was leaving the show effective immediately. (Another high-profile writer, Whitney Cummings, had already left.) Although Barr deleted and apologized for the tweet, "Roseanne" was canceled immediately by ABC and Barr was dropped by her management.
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Began working as a window dresser and part-time cocktail waitress; encouraged by her bar customers to perform stand-up
Hired to perform at the Denver Comedy Club
Produced showcase for women performers at the University of Boulder, CO
Hired by Comedy Store owner Mitzi Shore in Los Angeles
Won Denver Laff-Off competition in stand-up comedy
Made first appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (NBC)
Moved to Los Angeles with family and toured for 18 weeks as Julio Iglesias' opening act
First TV special, "On Location: The Roseanne Barr Show" (HBO)
Made series acting debut on sitcom "Roseanne" (ABC), series based on her life and comedy act; received credit as producer from 1990 until the series ended in 1997
Made her feature acting debut in "She Devil," opposite Meryl Streep
Created and executive produced the ABC animated series "Little Rosey"
Supplied the voice of baby Julie in the feature film sequel "Look Who's Talking Too"
Changed professional name to Roseanne Arnold after she and Tom Arnold agreed that she would take his name if he converted to Judaism
Had a small role in "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare" (credited as Mrs. Tom Arnold)
Starred in first made-for-TV movie, "Backfield in Motion" (ABC)
Made her TV directorial debut with the HBO comedy special "Roseanne Barr Live from Trump Castle"; also executive produced, wrote and starred in
Hosted "Free to Laugh: A Comedy and Music Special for Amnesty International"
Executive produced first TV series in which she did not star, "The Jackie Thomas Show" (ABC) starring husband Tom Arnold
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Signed a long-term TV production deal with Warner Bros. under the Wappello County Productions banner
Executive produced first TV-movie, "The Woman Who Loved Elvis" (ABC), also starred
Announced that her professional name was to be Roseanne after her separation from husband Tom Arnold
Stage acting debut as the Wicked Witch of the West/Elvira Gulch in NYC production of "The Wizard of Oz"
Hosted the syndicated daytime talk program "The Roseanne Show"
Starred on her own reality series "The Real Roseanne Show" (ABC), show canceled after just two weeks on the air
Re-adopted her last name "Barr"
Guest starred on CBS's "Two and a Half Men" as the sister of Charlie Sheen's maid
Voice of Maggie (The Outsider) in the animated feature "Home on the Range"
Returned to mark her first standup special in a decade with HBO's "Roseanne Barr: Blonde and Bitchin'"
Hosted season three of "The Search for the Funniest Mom in America" on Nick at Nite
Headlined an act at the Sahara Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip
Hosted a politically-themed radio show on KPFK
Returned to television with "Roseanne's Nuts," a Lifetime series following Barr as she ran a 40-acre nut farm on Hawaii's Big Island; also executive produced
Released her third book titled <i>Roseannearchy: Dispatches from the Nut Farm</i>
Unsuccessfully ran for President of the United States under the Green Party
Announced to star and produce sitcom for NBC; also filmed guest starring role on "The Office" (NBC)
Returned to network television with the revival of her signature project, "Roseanne"; despite it's huge success, ABC cancelled the show after a single season after Barr Tweeted a racist comment about former Barack Obama aide Valerie Jarrett