Actress, comedienne, writer, television producer, director and host Roseanne, also known as Roseanne Arnold and Roseanne Barr, kicked off her standup comedy career in Denver, Colorado, in the late 1970s and became famous in the early 1980s for her portrayal of a working class housewife in her comedy routines. She later moved to Hollywood to further her career, where she landed a booking at the Comedy Store. However, it was a performance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” (1985) that put her on the map. Subsequently, she became a regular at many hotels and casinos, including the Desert Inn and Caesars Palace. “I learned so much from standup. I learned about discipline, which I’d never had before in my life. I learned about language and communication and writing. I was validating my existence on the stage. You really don’t know very well how to be assertive, but in front of the audience you gotta learn,” she said.
Roseanne later emerged as a TV star thanks to her portrayal of Roseanne Conner on the hit ABC sitcom “Roseanne” (1988-1997), which she also co-created and produced. The role brought her an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, three American Comedy Awards, five People's Choice Awards and a Kid's Choice Award. In 2008, over a decade after the show stopped airing, she and the cast of “Roseanne” were handed an Innovator Award from the TV Land Awards. About “Roseanne,” she stated, “The show was about women, gender, politics, the working class. Did I think that it would be a success? I actually did because I knew it was filling a void.
After the series, Roseanne hosted the syndicated talk show “The Roseanne Show” (1998-2000) and starred in the short lived reality TV “The Real Roseanne Show” (2003).
“Like I said in my act, one thing I learned from that show is that fake reality sucks too. It was all fake. There’s nothing real about any of them. My sitcom, (Roseanne) was more reality than any of these reality shows. They are all just fake. They might be on a desert island eating rats, but there’s a craft service table like three feet away for the crew. Roseanne (about her failed reality show and reality shows in general)
The school dropout has also appeared in the films “She-Devil” (1989), “Backfield in Motion” (1991,TV), “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” (1993), “Blue in the Face” (1995), “Home on the Range” (2004, as the voice of Maggie) and the TV series “A Different World” (1992), “General Hospital” (1994), “3rd Rock from the Sun” (1997), “The Nanny” (1997) and “My Name Is Earl” (2006). She won her first American Comedy Award for her work on her TV special “On Location: The Roseanne Barr Show.” Roseanne returned to standup comedy in 2005 but with a noted different performance. In addition to dying her hair blonde, she has undergone plastic surgery and lost weight.
Roseanne was inducted into the Hollywood the Walk of Fame in 1992 for her contribution to television.
On her personal life, Roseanne is the mother of five. She has three children (a son and two daughters) with first husband Bill Pentland (together from 1974 to 1990) and a son with third husband Ben Thomas (together from 1995 to 2002). She also has a daughter from a previous relationship, whom she gave up for adoption. Her marriage to popular second husband Tom Arnold did not produce any children. About her former husband, she said, “Tom’s somebody I don’t have any interest in, other than to wish him well.”
Childhood and Family:
Roseanne Cherrie Barr was born on November 3, 1952, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Jerry Barr, a household goods salesman, and Helen Barr, a bookkeeper and cashier. The oldest of four, she has a brother named Ben and two sisters, Geraldine and Stephanie. Both Ben and Geraldine are gay and Ben serves as an executive director of the Utah AIDS Foundation. Although her parents were Jewish, they reportedly kept their Jewish heritage concealed from their neighbors and were semi active in The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints.
A born entertainer, Roseanne began performing for her family at an early age. When she was 6, she starred as King Ahasuerus in her synagogue's production of “The Story of Esther.” Roseanne went on to star in, write, produce and direct shows and plays in her neighborhood and in junior high. She dropped out of school at age 17 and moved to an artists’ colony in Colorado. As a result of a car accident as a teenager, she was later admitted to a mental institution because of post-traumatic stress. After less than a year, she left the institution and gave birth to a daughter, Brandi Brown, shortly thereafter. However, she gave up the baby for adoption and they were not reunited until 1989. They have since remained close.
Three years after having a daughter, Roseanne married Bill Pentland on February 4, 1974. They had children named Jessica (born in 1975), Jennifer (born in 1976) and Jake (born in 1977) before divorcing on January 16, 1990. Remarking about the divorce, she said, “The holes in our marriage just kept growing bigger. When I finally accepted I was doing nothing but plugging holes, the marriage was over.”
Four days after the divorce, Roseanne married fellow comic, writer and actor Tom Arnold. Commenting about Arnold, she stated, “This is the man with whom I can finally be me, be totally honest. This is a man who accepts me as I am. We have fun together. He has a brilliant mind, is a brilliant writer, and he’s this huge guy and me, well, we look really stupid together.”
Roseanne and Tom Arnold divorced on December 9, 1994. She then married her former bodyguard, Ben Thomas, on February 14, 1995. The couple welcomed a son, which they named Buck Thomas, on August 5, 1995. They divorced in October 2002.
“If I hadn’t found comedy, I’d probably be out killing people.” Roseanne
While living in Denver, Roseanne worked as a window dresser and waitress and received encouragement from her customers to take her humor to comedy clubs. Before long, she began performing standup comedy in local bars and coffeehouses and emerged as one of the top comedians in Denver. In 1982, she was hired to perform at the Denver Comedy Club. The same year, she also produced “Take Back the Mike,” a showcase for women performers at the University of Boulder, in Colorado. However, it was not until the following year that the winner of the Denver Laff-Off competition made a trip to Hollywood and scored a spot at the Comedy Store. Later that same year, she was asked to perform on the George Schlatter TV special “Funny” and was discovered by a talent scout from “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” She would appear on the show in 1985. Roseanne then relocated to Los Angeles with her family in 1984. Shortly thereafter, she toured for 18 weeks as an opening act for the popular Spanish singer Julio Iglesias.
Following her successful performance on “The Tonight Show,” Roseanne had her first TV special, “On Location: The Roseanne Barr Show,” in 1987, which won her a 1988 American Comedy in the category of Funniest Female Performer in a TV Special (Leading or Supporting) Network, Cable or Syndication. The next year, she got her own television series on ABC, which she co-created with Matt Williams, starred in and executive produced (1992-1997). Debuting on October 18, 1988, “Roseanne” became a hit show in the U.S. It won a 1992 Peabody Award for Excellence in Television Broadcasting and a 1993 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy. The show ended on May 21, 1997, after having run for nine seasons. As Roseanne Conner in the series, Roseanne was handed a 1993 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, a 1993 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress Television Series - Musical or Comedy, and several People Choice Awards, among other awards and nominations. While working on her series, Roseanne also kept busy pursuing other opportunities. In 1989, she made her feature film acting debut in “She-Devil,” an adaptation of Fay Weldon's novel “The Life and Loves of a She-Devil,” which was directed by Susan Seidelman. In the movie, she starred as Ruth Patchett, opposite Meryl Streep as Mary Fisher. She said, “Ruth was struggling in her marriage. Over the course of the film she grows and takes control of her life, refusing throughout to be a victim. I thought if I portrayed her, she might help me get my own life together and she did. Ruth influenced my decision to end my marriage (to first husband Bill Pentland), but I don’t know how or why yet.”
In 1990, Roseanne created and executive produced the ABC animated series “Little Rosey” with stories based on the childhood of the lead character from the sitcom “Roseanne.” She also did voiceover work for the feature film sequel “Look Who's Talking Too,” from which she nabbed a Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actress for her part as Julie. She then appeared with then-husband Tom Arnold in the fantasy film “Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare” (1991), starred as Nancy Seavers in the ABC movie “Backfield in Motion” (1991) and made her TV directorial debut with the HBO comedy special “Roseanne Barr Live from Trump” (1991), which she also starred in, executive produced and wrote. She also hosted “Free to Laugh: A Comedy and Music Special for Amnesty International” in 1992 and made episodic appearances on “A Different World” and “The Jackie Thomas Show.” She acted again with Tom Arnold in the based on book television movie “The Woman Who Loved Elvis” (ABC, 1993), her first TV film in which she served as an executive producer, played Madame Zoe in Gus Van Sant's “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” (1993, starred Uma Thurman), joined the cast of “General Hospital” in the role of Jennifer Smith #2 (1994) and costarred with Michael J. Fox in the comedy film “Blue in the Face” (1995). In 1996, she executive produced and hosted the sketch comedy variety show “Saturday Night Special.” Roseanne also shared executive producing and/or writing credits with Arnold in several TV projects, including “Tom Arnold: The Naked Truth” (1991), “Tom Arnold: The Naked Truth 2” (1992), “Tom Arnold: The Naked Truth 3” (1993), “Tom” (1994) and “Cherry Street, South of Main” (1994).
After “Roseanne” left the airwaves in 1997, Roseanne offered a memorable portrayal of Janet in two episodes of the NBC hit sitcom “3rd Rock from the Sun,” starring John Lithgow. She then played Sheila in the episode “The Morning After” of the Fran Drescher comedy vehicle “The Nanny” (both 1997). Still that year, she appeared on stage in a production of “The Wizard of Oz,” playing the Wicked Witch of the West. In 1998, she began hosting her own talk show, “The Roseanne Show,” which she also executive produced. The show ran for two seasons until 2000 and she was nominated for a 1999 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host for her effort.
In 2003, Roseanne starred in her own reality show, “The Real Roseanne Show.” However, ABC axed the show after just two weeks on the air. The same year, she also appeared in an episode of the comedy series “The Brothers Garcia.” She went on to voice Maggie in the animated feature “Home on the Range” (2004) before returning to standup comedy in 2005. After making notable guest appearances on “My Name Is Earl” (2006), playing a crazy trailer park manager named Millie Banks, she scored a standup special with HBO’s “Roseanne Barr: Blonde and Bitchin” (2006), which she also executive produced and wrote.
Recently, in 2010, Roseanne appeared in the TV film “Women Without Men,” which was directed by and starred Penny Marshall, and the documentary “I Am Comic,” with Tim Allen and Tom Arnold, among others. She will also appear in the new talk show “The Green Room with Paul Provenza.”
TV Land: Innovator Award, “Roseanne,” 2008
People's Choice: Favorite Female TV Performer, 1995
People's Choice: Favorite Female TV Performer, 1994
American Comedy: Funniest Female Performer in a TV Series (Leading Role) Network, Cable or Syndication, “Roseanne,” 1993
Emmy: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, “Roseanne,” 1993
Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series – Comedy/Musical, “Roseanne,” 1993
GLAAD Media: Vanguard Award, 1993 (Shared with Tom Arnold)
Kids' Choice: Blimp Award, Favorite TV Actress, “Roseanne,” 1992
Aftonbladet TV Prize (Sweden): TV Prize, Best Foreign TV Personality - Female, 1991
People's Choice: Favorite All-Around Female Entertainer, 1990
People's Choice: Favorite Female TV Performer, 1990
People's Choice: Favorite Female Performer in a New TV Program, 1989
American Comedy: Funniest Female Performer in a TV Series (Leading Role) Network, Cable or Syndication, “Roseanne,” 1989
American Comedy: Funniest Female Stand-Up Comic, 1989
Golden Apple: Sour Apple, 1989
American Comedy: Funniest Female Performer in a TV Special (Leading or Supporting) Network, Cable or Syndication, “On Location: The Roseanne Barr Show,” 1988