For over 30 years Roseanne Barr has repeatedly proven her versatility both on and off the stage. She’s a rollicking standup comic; pioneer of the modern sitcom (see Roseanne); Presidential nominee for the California-based Peace and Freedom Party in 2012; and a consummate iconoclast, unafraid of butchering the National Anthem and grabbing her crotch on national television. Confined by nothing and no one, Barr and her comedy has endured. As a result of her continued success, she’ll be performing at the Venetian in Las Vegas on April 11th, where she’ll be joining Lipshtick’s all-female cast of comedians, including Garfunkel & Oates, Whitney Cummings, and Lisa Lampanelli.
Before knocking out our Lucky 7, Barr opened up to Playboy about the degeneration of the sitcom, her sporadic passion for performing, and why she enlists her son, who lives next door, to turn on the television for her.
In 2012 you were a Presidential nominee of the Peace and Freedom party. Could you talk about the party’s platform and politics, along with your involvement in it?
The Party’s platform was basically a socialist platform with the regular outmoded socialist concerns, but my point was that “socialism” is the way to build a middle class and a working class-nothing else does. You take money from the top and move it to the middle. Duh.
Many critics have suggested that Roseanne changed the modern sitcom. What are your thoughts on the current state of the medium?
It’s changing a lot — in form, but still not changing much in content. It continues to appeal to idiots. As it loses more viewers to intelligent indie content, it tries to get even dumber. Soon, the only idiots it will attempt to market its shows to will be too stupid to even know how to turn on a television. I know this because I can’t do it now! I can only get the ID channel and can never properly turn off the screen. There are 700 dials on the remote none of which I can see, as I can’t find my glasses. I call my son to turn the TV on for me; that is why he lives next door. It’s a shame, this whole fucking technological devolutionary thing. However, ask me anything about forensics, and I can answer with authority!
I’ve heard many comics tell stories about the joy and horror of touring around the country. Do you have any moment that stands out in your mind?
I have a lot of wonderful experiences around the country. My favorite odd conversation was with a very old farmer in a coffee shop in Iowa, who said: “ Hey, hey — are you who I think I am?” I said, “Well, I don’t know, who do you think you are?” He answered, “That Suzanna girl on TV!” I said, “Yes — that’s you!” and he said, “I knew it!”
You’ve done standup for over three decades. Does the passion for the profession ever fade, or is there an endless well of material to tap into?
The passion for it never fades, but sometimes I’m into watching other people do it, seeing some new and different odd or brave performer, then sometimes I am compelled to write and I get “the bug” again. It’s a sickness which can never be completely cured. We usually go through a stage fright stage, too. We’re not well people. Watching Doug Stanhope work brought it back — the need to spit in the eye of the stupidity thing.
What was your first exposure to Playboy?
I babysat the neighbor kids and their dad had a subscription to it. I saw it on the TV when I was babysitting, making a hefty 15 cents per hour. I was actually horrified that people showed their nakedness and seemed comfortable doing it. My mother never even showed her arms. My orthodox grandmother thought women who wore pants were “whores.” As a result, the human body was a source of shame for me (and still is). Seeing gentiles who were comfortable with their bodies was a shock which caused me to act out sexually in promiscuous and compromising ways for decades. I was going to sue Hef, but forgave him instead, as menopause freed me from years of being a slave to biological urges. At 62, I enthusiastically await total physical Transcendence, but thanks for asking!
What movie scared you the most as a kid?
No question: The horror that was and is Bambi. It scarred me forever.
What’s your pop-culture blind spot?
This whole interweb thing! I can hardly find a goddamn pay phone anywhere! Digital indigestion…
If you were on death row, which I suspect you won’t be any time soon, what would your last meal be?
One pound of Beluga caviar with blinis sour cream, et. al. And a sensible salad.
What was your first car?
A yellow Gremlin!
What was the first song you knew all the words to?
The Passover song “Chad Gadya,” about the father who bought two goats with two coins! “One little goat and two, which my father bought for two tzunim.” We were quite a modern family, as you can see…
What’s your favorite mistake?
Tweeting while drinking brown liquors.
Founder of Movie Mezzanine, Sam Fragoso is a San Francisco-based journalist whose work has appeared in Interview Magazine, The Daily Beast, Forbes, RogerEbert.com and The Week. You can follow him on Twitter @SamFragoso.