Roseanne Barr’s Stand-up Persona Mellows with Time

roseanne.jpegWarmer, sweeter, in need of a hug.

Whoa … Either my adjective-dispenser is on the fritz or this publication is disguised as the Onion or it’s true: Roseanne has mellowed.

Like all of us as we advance into late-middle age—it’s the baby boomers’ turn—some youthful promises of happiness and success have been kept (for Roseanne, spectacularly so). Others haven’t. Life has slapped you around. Regrets, disappointments and hard lessons have piled up to deepen and change you. … Which doesn’t mean it can’t be funny.

So it seems with 60-year-old Roseanne Barr, onetime national anthem-screeching, crotch-grabbing, tantrum-tossing tabloid hellion—and sitcom icon—still slinging punch lines in an abbreviated residency at the Tropicana’s Laugh Factory. What seems like lethargy at the start of her hour-long set turns out to be comic thoughtfulness. When she derides reality shows she’s offered as “beneath a has-been of my magnitude,” her audience can laugh and wince in solidarity over life doing what it inevitably does, at whatever success level you’ve achieved.

Running down the age-joke checklist: grandkids (“We play ‘cowboys and invalids’ and ‘hide and go sleep’”); physical deterioration (“I’m wet where I’m supposed to be dry and dry where I’m supposed to be wet”); cultural befuddlement (“Anyone know what a transvaginal mesh is?”); and career downgrades (performing on gay cruises she calls “cocktoberfest”).

Flashes of edgy, score-settling Roseanne still surface—at this age, most people have a few to settle—with a quick jab at ex-hubby Tom Arnold and, given her lifelong weight battles, a longer tirade aimed at diet companies (“I’d like to kill and eat Jenny Craig”).

Peppered into the routine are obvious political/social/pop-cultural targets, including Mel Gibson, the Kardashians, Mitt Romney, Barbra Streisand, Lance Armstrong, pedophile priests and Lindsay Lohan. Easy laughs, but they nicely leaven the comic ruefulness. Originality sneaks in, such as a bright bit in which she phones God and gets an automated recording, then goes on a talk-to-God website.

Labeling herself a “has-been” is, of course, an exaggeration for the still-stunt-loving Roseanne, who made a Pat Paulson-like, 2012 presidential run (she garnered nearly 50,000 votes) and starred in her here-and-gone, 2011 reality show, Roseanne’s Nuts, on the Lifetime channel. After all, even when we age, we’re still, well, us at our core.

Yet this is a Roseanne who is unfailingly polite to her audience, addressing us as “sir” and “ma’am,” while facetiously uttering “what?” after a zinger, defusing even the most pointed punch lines with a “who, me?” cuteness.

Aging, at least when it comes to her stand-up persona, is something Roseanne wears well. Looking back in irony suits her. “I’m losing my memory, thank God,” she says.

Amen, sister Ro.

STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Hoofing and knife-fighting, the partially bilingual West Side Story comes to The Smith Center on February 26, with portions of dialogue and lyrics delivered in Spanish by the Puerto Rican street gang, the Sharks. Unfortunately, some of us didn’t ace high-school Spanish. Somewhere, a former teacher of this columnist’s acquaintance is thinking, LMAO! Or more accurately: Yo cagandome de la risa! (Proud of me yet, Teach?)

If you performed stand-up, would your routine be rated R, NC-17 or WWAP (Wow, What A Perv)? Prove it by emailing some jokes to or adding them to our comments.

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