Penthouse Retrospective

by Nanette Varian Originally Published: December, 1990

Roseanne Barr

If I worked on “Saturday Night Live,” I would’ve demanded my ten-minute rebuttal, that’s all. And I would’ve done material that would’ve buried him. Because that’s the only way you can ever do it, by being funnier than they are.

What kind of material would you have done?

Barr: I would’ve done his material. I probably would’ve dressed up like him and done an impersonation of him. We were pretty good friends. I used to stand in the back of the Comedy Store during his act, and when he’d do that “foreigners” kind of shit I’d go, “Isn’t your name really Andrew Silverstein?” And he’d go, “Here’s to you sucking my dick.” He knew it was me!

But his jokes eventually got more poo-poo-ish. ’Cause you know that’s all the status quo can do eventually is just talk about shit. But other points of view can get more and more cerebral all the time-more sophisticated and infinitely more dangerous than shit jokes.

Are you still friendly with him?

Barr: Yeah. I think he’s gonna be a big movie star. He’s a really good actor. He has great presence. I think his choice of material is real juvenile, but there is something about him as an actor.

Comics pretty much disgust me these days. I’m sure I disgust them, too! I suppose it’s just the way us older comics are-’’ Ah, these young folks!” I just like somebody to go in there and really rip it up. Like Sam Kinison. He was so dangerously scary, that was really cool.

Is there anything that you wouldn’t joke about?

Barr: No, there’s nothing I wouldn’t joke about, but it would be the way I joked about it. You can tell jokes about ·any­thing – just remember it’s all about point of view. You can do it in a way that doesn’t make you a perpetrator. If you’re gonna do a joke about racism, don’t have it be on the black folks. Make fun of the system that creates racism. That’s on the highest level. That’s humorous.

Your movie She-Devil didn’t get very good reviews. Did you enjoy making it at least?

Barr: It was really, really degrading. Now, with hindsight, I really think the director, Susan Seide/man, wanted me in the movie because I was fat. I think that’s about all she saw. Which is really, really depressing. My sister saw that she had the camera on my ass during a whole scene. And I called the direc­tor aside and said, “What are you doing here? It’s really degrading.” And she went, “No, no. I’m a fat person, and I wouldn’t do anything blah, blah, blah.” Anyway, I feel like I trusted her, and I shouldn’t have, because she went out of her way to make me look really, really gross and stupid. There were a lot of shots of my ass and that fucking mole.

You’ve obviously gained a lot of confidence since then. How do you know when you’re really powerful in LA?

Barr: It all comes from within. Nobody gives it to you. If you think you have power – even if you’re a waitress in a hot dog stand – you’ll have power. Of course, the people out here … if there’s the possibility that they could make a dollar and get some exposure from jumping into piles of shit – if somebody can convince somebody out here that it’s the wave of the future, the new trend – then it wouldn’t matter that they were going to smell like shit.

What disgusts me [about it] also draws me, ‘cause I think that great things can happen here, too. I think Hollywood is like a microcosm of the American dream. It’s like assuming power. I mean, the fact that I came out of where I came out of, and I’m talking to the heads of networks and going, “Well, wait a minute.” That’s just awesome!

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...

Leave a Reply