Roseanne Barr

Active - 1989 - 2016  |   Born - Nov 3, 1952 in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Adventure

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Biography by AllMovie

Brash and brassy comedian Roseanne is a one-of-a-kind talent who during her career has undergone many substantial changes that have transformed her from trailer-trash queen to one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. Around age 18, Roseanne Barr moved to a Colorado hippie commune where she met Bill Pentland. They married in 1973 and moved to Denver, where they struggled to support their three subsequent children. By the mid-'70s, Roseanne was working as both a cocktail waitress and a window dresser to help feed her family. Impressed by her quick, caustic wit and funny insights into women, men, and domestic life, friends and patrons suggested she take her stories on-stage at a local comedy club. It was on-stage where she honed her famous characterization of the dumpy, domineering, and earthy "Domestic Goddess."

Within a few years, Roseanne had become one of the most popular standup acts in Denver, and in 1983 she headed for Hollywood to further her career. She quickly landed a gig at The Comedy Store and then appeared on the ABC television special Funny. During rehearsal, she was spotted by a talent scout from The Tonight Show, who promptly booked her for an appearance. It was a great success. In 1988, her innovative and distinguished television sitcom, Roseanne, debuted on ABC and centered on the struggles of an overweight, domineering mother and her raucous, working-class family that is often on the brink of financial and personal crisis but always manages to somehow hang together. Roseanne and her brood were real people facing real problems that weren't always neatly solved in 30 minutes. The shows were often simultaneously poignant and hilarious; until its last two seasons, Roseanne topped the ratings, and won numerous awards and honors.

During the course of the show, the many changes in Roseanne's personal life were reflected on the air. When she underwent breast-reduction surgery, her character did too. When she married Tom Arnold in 1990, he became a part of her show and she proudly billed herself as Roseanne Arnold. When the marriage broke up, he disappeared and she began billing herself only as Roseanne. She eventually married her bodyguard Ben Thomas and at the age of 43 had herself impregnated via in vitro fertilization. Her character, Roseanne Conner, also got pregnant. Even the plastic surgeries she has had on her face have received some treatment on the show, in this case via the opening credits, wherein her photographs from the past nine seasons reflect her change from the frowzy to the almost glamorous. Her series ended in May 1997.

Though best known for her television work and live performances, Roseanne has also made periodic stabs at a movie career; she made her debut as a vengeful housewife opposite Meryl Streep in the comedy She-Devil (1989). The film received decidedly mixed reviews, and Roseanne's subsequent film appearances have been in cameos or small supporting roles. Over her career, Roseanne has received numerous awards, including an Emmy, several People's Choice Awards, Golden Globes, and an American Comedy Award. She was the fourth woman ever to become the star attraction at a Friar's Club celebrity roast. Back in the late '80s through the early '90s, Roseanne's tumultuous personal life, her often public and ill-timed abrasive nature coupled with her phenomenal popularity made her a favorite target of tabloid newspapers. Never one to shy away from such issues, she tells her own story in two books, the best-selling My Life As a Woman (1989) and My Lives (1994). She has also been frequently skewered by critics and wags who have difficulty accepting the fact that through sheer force of will, she has been able to overcome all obstacles to become a powerful and successful woman.

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  • Daughter Brandi Brown was given up for adoption after her birth in 1971; they reunited 18 years later.
  • Moved to Denver in 1973 and began her stand-up career.
  • Made her first appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1985.
  • Movie debut was in 1989's She-Devil.
  • Married second husband Tom Arnold four days after divorcing her first husband of 16 years, Bill Pentland.
  • Made headlines with an off-key, groin-grabbing rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" at a Padres-Reds game in 1990.
  • Third husband Ben Thomas worked as her bodyguard before they married in 1995.
  • Appeared as the Wicked Witch in a 1997 New York City stage production of The Wizard of Oz.
  • Released her third book, Roseannearchy: Dispatches from the Nut Farm, in January 2011; in it refers to people who obsess about her as "Roseannethropologists."