Penthouse Retrospective

by Nanette Varian Originally Published: December, 1990

Roseanne Barr

Unfortunately, people always take away from fat women’s sexuality, rather than just leaving it alone. I used to have this line in my act – my husband’ll kill me for this – one time way back in my stand-up days, a heckler screamed out, “You’re fat’” and I said, “Yeah, I am fat, but you’d crawl on your belly to fuck me!”

Do you get love letters from fans?

Barr: Yeah. The best was this one guy who, when we first started out, wrote me from prison. They have this file where they give maniac letters to the cops, and this guy wrote a letter asking me to send him a picture of me in a bathing suit or nude. He said he thought I was really hot and all that shit. They put it in the maniac file. [Laughs]

How did you and Tom Arnold meet?

Barr: We met in Minneapolis in ’83. He was opening for me. I said, “I hope you don’t do any pig shit,” ’cause that was really hard to follow in those days. It’s way easier now, but it was hard for women comics back then. A lot of men would go up and tell pussy jokes just before you came out, which really handicapped you in front of the audience. It would be like bringing up a black comic after telling very offensive stereotype jokes about blacks, which they never did because they had that much intelligence, but they always did it about women.

So I’d always go, “You don’t do any pig shit, do you?” just to freak the guy out, because the headliner could usually get rid of the other act. When I asked Tom, he said, “No, I just call women ’hosebags’ and ’come dump­sters’ and stuff like that. But that’s okay, isn’t it?” I just started laughing. I thought it was real ballsy! We became buddies. I asked him to write me some jokes, and when I got the series, I told him, “Now I’m gonna pay you back, because now you’re going to come out here and write on my show.”

Now that you’re married, how do you plan to keep the romance alive?

Barr: I try and hit him when he’s not looking, and he gets me when I’m not looking. It’s just fun, like being a kid. And this is a bizarre thing to say, com­ing from me, because it’s a bizarre thing to find in myself, but I like that he’s such a man, you know?

What do you mean by that?

Barr: On the show, they started taking my ideas so much better when Tom was there because they knew he could beat them up. It’s true. After all the stuff I did – proving my­self, killing myself, doing extra work ­in the end, the only thing that mattered was that I had a guy who could beat the shit out of any of them. And man, did they start listening!

You really think that helped get their attention?

Barr: I do think that’s the only thing that changed anything. Tom’s there, and that makes it easier for me. It just feels like the total, natural way that it should be for me, anyway. I like so much that he can pick somebody up and throw them through a wall. It doesn’t even bruise him – and I think that’s awe­some. He’s this strong man who can lift me up. [As if on cue, the strong man himself strolls into the room, joining the conversation for a few minutes.]

You’re obviously very protective of your wife.

Arnold: Yeah, that’s what I do. I protect her and the kids, and I feel good about it. It’s a good role for me. It’s the reason men were put on this planet. It’s a real basic, caveman kind of thing.

Barr: Our relationship’s intellectual, too. We get along real good.

Arnold: I think I’m sensitive, but it’s im­possible to be as sensitive as a woman about certain things.

No matter how insane people make her out to be, when you hear her words, Roseanne doesn't seem much different than any other intelligent woman with an ax to grind. Unless, of course, she's talking about how insane she is...

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