The Star: Roseanne Barr comes to Canada (mostly) in peace

Even on the phone, Roseanne Barr sounds cold.

I don’t mean cold as in heartless. I mean cold as in what the hell am I doing in this country and why are there ice storms in April? The ghastly “spring” temps have been murder on her sciatica. Or, as the comedian recently tweeted, with fingers too numb for capitals and apostrophes: “im freezing my fallopian tubes off in canada!”

“I asked, ‘Is it going to be cold when I tour?’ ” Barr tells me, on the line between standup gigs in frigid Burlington and Ottawa this week. “And everybody was like, ‘No, spring is a wonderful time in Canada.’ ”

Not that she’s complaining.

Even if the weather gods picked a wretched time to inflict misery on her joints and back, Roseanne Burrrr is feeling the cross-border love. The biggest star on U.S. television right now is crisscrossing the province like a 16th-century fur trader, bringing her observational humour to outposts — she’ll perform at the Rose Theatre Brampton on Sunday after a Saturday show in Kingston — that often get overlooked when comics perform live in the midst of a career renaissance.

“These are shows that I’ve had booked for a long time,” she explains. “And when I started working on Roseanne, I kind of had to move them. So I needed to make them up.”

Last month’s revival of Roseanne, the groundbreaking ABC sitcom that originally ran between 1988 and 1997, landed like an atomic bomb even insiders never saw coming. More than 25 million watched the premiere. A month later, Barr has the No. 1 show on network television, an army of new and old fans, and the grudging respect of an industry that often does not know what to make of her.

“I live a real life,” says Barr, who tends to the land on a macadamia farm in Hawaii, replete with livestock, beehives and visiting grandkids. “I guess a lot of (celebrities), they don’t live in the real world. They live in a bubble. I tried to be part of that for a while, but it just was not good for me. So I moved back to regular America.”

With her show back in production in Los Angeles, Barr now inhabits two planets. “I’m lucky that I get to have a world where my work is valued and I get to do some glamorous stuff. And then I go home and rake cow s–t. It’s a good perspective.”

What hasn’t changed since 1985, when she first appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, is her disdain for the easily scandalized.

“I love to puncture self-righteousness,” says Barr. “That’s what comedy is about.”

While other comics may lament the outrage mobs that roam social media in search of offence, real or imagined, she sees political correctness as an opportunity.

“It’s the best time for comedy,” says Barr, now 65. “It makes for really fertile ground for comedy. Because people want to hear a viewpoint they can laugh at. The audiences are smart and I think they’re fed up with it, too … My act is not politically correct at all. I don’t like that stuff. I think it’s censorship. I like to make fun of it.”

As you might imagine, these instincts can lead to blowback.

In a recent episode of Roseanne, there is a scene in which her character, Roseanne Conner, and husband Dan (John Goodman) wake up after falling asleep on the couch.

Roseanne: “It’s 11 o’clock. We slept from Wheel to Kimmel.”

Dan: “We missed all the shows about Black and Asian families.”

A number of viewers, including other sitcom writers, were highly critical of this exchange, which they deemed dismissive, unnecessary, belittling and possibly even a racist shot at ABC’s Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat.

Barr scoffs at such analysis. She is unrepentant.

“They misinterpreted the whole joke,” she says. “I mean, it’s just ridiculous. They don’t even get it.”

She questions the motivation of her critics.

“They’re gunning for me,” she says. “They’re gunning for my show. It’s part of being No. 1. It’s part of being the best. They totally misinterpreted it. That was a joke that was supportive of their shows.”

It probably doesn’t help that Barr, like her character, voted for Donald Trump.

To wear a MAGA cap in Hollywood is like marching into a public library with a Taser. You will be seen as unstable and dangerous. You become a pariah.

“I don’t support everything he does,” says Barr, referring to Trump. “But there’s never been a president that I don’t have something to say about.”

Reminder: Barr ran for president in 2012. Would she ever run again?

“I never stop thinking about it,” she says. “But I don’t know. I’m so old now. I’m tired. But I think I have declared myself president for life of the United States. So I’m going to keep giving my opinion because I live in a country where that’s possible.”

As for another recent criticism — her retweeting of far-right conspiracy theories — Barr offers an explanation.

“I try to use my Twitter site like I do everything else, where it’s like, ‘Hey, here’s what they are saying. Read up on it,’ ” she says.

“It doesn’t mean that I support or believe it myself. But it’s interesting.”

But then she seems to double down by saying conspiracy theories can sometimes be true. She cites disgraced comedians Bill Cosby and Louis CK.

“I was the first one to call out both of those guys and I was attacked for that,” says Barr. “They were like, ‘Oh, she’s rehashing conspiracy theories.’ Then they turn out true. And it pisses me off because they never say, ‘Oh, Roseanne was right two years ago.’ They just move on to the next thing.”

“Are you ever wrong?” I ask, before moving on to the next thing.

“I like being right,” she replies, droll irony now in effect. “The only time I was ever wrong was once I thought I was wrong. And it turned out I was right.”

On Thursday, Barr was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. One of the reasons she wanted to return to network television, she says, is to help slice through the political and social polarization. Though it may be hard to believe, she wants to be a sounding board more than a lightning rod.

She wants to be a uniter more than a divider.

“I wanted to help people be able to talk intelligently about actual issues rather than retreat to their little pens that they have us all in, and parrot talking points that, you know, the powers that be give us to keep us separate. We have to coalesce and solve problems.”

Barr hopes the next new episode of Roseanne, to air on May 1 (7:30 p.m. on CTV), will spark dialogue.

“The first show back is going to be a really political show,” she promises.

“It’s about getting Muslim neighbours and that’s very political. But we have these Muslim professors that we asked to watch the show and they loved it and said it was a great way to open a discussion on this real issue. That’s what I think TV is supposed to be for. You talk about things. You don’t blacklist people and get angry.”

So if you see a familiar face near a local theatre this week — her standup act is headed to St. Catharines (Monday), Oakville (Wednesday) and Guelph (Friday) — say hello and maybe buy this macadamia farmer a hot chocolate.

The domestic goddess from the ’80s is now the grand dame of comedy.

And she still has a few things to get off her chest.


Article Source: