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Pioneering Comedian Roseanne Barr on Her Life on Screen as a “Working-Class Domestic Goddess”

A discussion about Barr's groundbreaking sitcom, and how she "made it OK for women to talk about their actual lives on television."
 
 
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In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Emmy Award-winning actress Roseanne Barr starred in the popular and groundbreaking show on television titled simply "Roseanne," the first TV series to openly advocate for gay rights. "Roseanne" featured one of the first lesbian kisses on TV, in an episode when Roseanne kisses Mariel Hemingway. "Roseanne" was also the first sitcom to ever feature a gay marriage. The series tackled other controversial topics, as well: poverty, class, abortion and feminism. From her open support of unions in earlier shows to her tribute to Native Americans toward the end of the series, Roseanne never shied away from contentious issues. The writer Barbara Ehrenreich once praised Roseanne Barr for representing "the hopeless underclass of the female sex: polyester-clad, overweight occupants of the slow track; fast-food waitresses, factory workers, housewives, members of the invisible pink-collar army; the despised, the jilted, the underpaid." We play excerpts from the groundbreaking sitcom and speak with Barr about her childhood in Utah, where she was raised half-Jewish and half-Mormon, and talk about how she "made it OK for women to talk about their actual lives on television."

 

 

AMY GOODMAN: Today we spend the rest of the hour with the woman who described herself as a "fierce working-class domestic goddess." She’s the award-winning actor, one of the country’s best-known comedians, Roseanne Barr.

In the late '80s and early ’90s, she starred in the popular and groundbreaking show on television titled simply Roseanne, the first TV series to openly advocate for gay rights. Roseanne featured the first lesbian kiss on TV in an episode when Roseanne kisses Mariel Hemingway. That's right, the actress and granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway. Roseanne was also the first sitcom to ever feature a gay marriage.

The series tackled other controversial topics, as well: poverty, class, abortion, feminism. From her open support of unions in earlier shows to her tribute to Native Americans toward the end of the series, Roseanne never shied away from contentious issues.

The writer Barbara Ehrenreich once praised Roseanne Barr for representing, quote, "the hopeless underclass of the female sex: polyester-clad, overweight occupants of the slow track; fast-food waitresses, factory workers, housewives, members of the invisible pink-collar army; the despised, the jilted, the underpaid."

Roseanne received an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award.

She came to our studios last week, and I began the interview with Roseanne Barr with a clip from the first episode of Roseanne, which aired in 1988.

ROSEANNE CONNER: Save me that detergent coupon. Becky! Dan!

DAN CONNER: What?

ROSEANNE CONNER: The sink’s all backed up again.

DAN CONNER: I’ll plunge it right after breakfast.

ROSEANNE CONNER: Well, I don’t want you to plunge it. I want you to fix it now.

DAN CONNER: You got it, babe.

ROSEANNE CONNER: This is the third time this week. You’ve got to fix it today.

DAN CONNER: Absolutely.

BECKY CONNER: Mom, my bookbag just fell apart.

ROSEANNE CONNER: I just bought it yesterday.

BECKY CONNER: Mom, please, you’ve got to take it back.

ROSEANNE CONNER: All right. I’ll do it after work.

BECKY CONNER: Bye!

ROSEANNE CONNER: Good bye. Could you meet with Darlene’s teacher today?

DAN CONNER: I can’t do it today, babe. I’m putting in a bid on a job, and if I get it, me and Freddy start construction this afternoon.

ROSEANNE CONNER: Well, how about this bookbag? Can you exchange that? Could you fit that into your tight schedule there?