Roseanne Barr is controversial. She’s had a tough life, but she’d tell you she made some of her own troubles. She dropped out of high school and married young, living in a mobile home while raising three children. She says, “It’s always Beach Party Barbie, or Malibu Barbie. That [stuff] doesn’t prepare you for the true horror of a real woman’s life. Where is single, abused, Trailer-Park Barbie?”
She’s been married three times, and she’s had five kids. She says, “There’s a lot more to being a woman than being a mother, but there a lot more to being a mother than most people suspect.” She gave her first daughter up for adoption when she was very young, after a stay in a mental institution precipitated by a traumatic car accident.
She’s had public disagreements with her birth family, and reconciled with them. She sought out her first child, and became a part of her life. She’s had three divorces, one notoriously ugly. Humor is her weapon. She says, “The way to a man’s heart is through his chest.”
The main thing though, is she’s funny, in a sly, perceptive way. People laugh when she performs, and they nod in agreement. She realized she could be a comedian because she cracked up the customers at Brannigan’s Restaurant, where she was dishwasher, cook, and waitress.
Her gimmick was presenting herself as a housewife comedian. She said, and she was the first one to say it, “I call myself a domestic goddess.” When she first appeared on Johnny Carson, he gently warned her that her gimmick might not take her far.
She took it farther than anyone would have dreamed, with a situation comedy that ran for nine years, movie deals, even a reality show. She said, “I used to want to be a movie star, so I wouldn’t have to live in trailers. Now that I make movies, I spend a lot of my life in trailers.”
She was overweight much of her life, finally taking surgical measures to deal with it. She’s had some plastic surgery too. She doesn’t think she’d do that again; she seems to accept her body now. She says, “It’s okay to be fat. So you’re fat. Just be fat and shut up about it.”
She was born in Salt Lake City, to Jewish parents. Most of the family went to church though. She says, “Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning I was a Jew; Sunday afternoon, Tuesday afternoon, and Wednesday afternoon we were Mormons.”
Now, in middle age, she does standup, cracking up the fans on grueling tours. She tells the story of her life, her version, in ways that make the audience gasp, and laugh, and clap wildly. She’s a feminist, a liberal, perhaps even a radical. She’s taken the scrappy material of her life and made it a dazzling patchwork, a bravura performance that’s painfully funny, something anyone would applaud.