The Truth About Roseanne Barr's Transformation

Roseanne Barr is a polarizing figure, but it's impossible to deny that she's a profoundly gifted comedienne. Even casual sitcom viewers will be familiar with her big laugh, though they might be less acquainted with her stand-up career, political aspirations, and written works. Roseanne Barr ruled television airwaves for years on her self-titled family sitcom, "Roseanne," which originally ran from 1988 to 1997 and became a staple of blue-collar comedy, per Vulture.

Barr has found herself mired in more than one controversy over her long career, though, and her sharp barbs have often landed her in hot water. Her unabashed support for Donald Trump has raised a few eyebrows, while a long history of questionable comments on social media has alienated some of her audience and led to the cancellation of "Roseanne," which saw a short-lived reboot in 2018.

Still, Barr's star is brighter than ever, and her legacy lives on in "The Connors," the "Roseanne" spin-off that continues the work started in the groundbreaking sitcom. Here's a closer look at the celebrity and her impressive career.

She has a strained relationship with her family

On November 3, 1952, Roseanne Cherrie Barr was born in Salt Lake City, Utah to Helen and Jerry Barr. The oldest of the four Barr children — Geraldine, Stephanie, Ben, and herself — the future star's experience growing up in a large family certainly inspired her later work. However, the similarities between Barr's actual family and her television family pretty much end there. 

In 1991, Barr announced that she had been sexually abused as a child, claiming the suppressed memories of her abuse came rushing back to her after a triggering incident. The announcement was met by vehement denial from her parents, however — and Barr made an appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" 20 years later in which she said that going public with the allegation was "the biggest mistake that I've ever made." Though she regrets the words she chose to describe the abuse, Barr was quick to tell Winfrey that "nobody accuses their parents of abuse without the justification to do that. I didn't just make it up." 

Growing up, she experienced major brain trauma and a mysterious childhood illness

It's been said that comedy comes from pain, and if that's true, no one knows it better than Roseanne. When she was only 3 years old, Barr developed Bell's palsy — a condition caused by nerve dysfunction and muscle weakness on one side of a patient's face, causing it to droop. While it's certainly alarming, Bell's palsy isn't a life-threatening condition — according to Dr. Isha Gupta (via E! News), it usually resolves itself on its own. 

Such was the case for Barr, but her mother would have liked to believe her daughter was cured by the power of prayer. In an interview with Amy Goodman, Barr recounted how her mother called on Mormon preachers to come and pray for her daughter to be cured of Bell's palsy, only to have the condition disappear only 48 hours later. Barr revealed that later, when she was 16, "I found that Bell's palsy was a 48-hour condition, largely."

Barr's Bell's palsy experience as a toddler wasn't life-altering, but a car accident at age 16 left the comedian fighting for her life. According to her documentary "Roseanne for President" (via The Hollywood Reporter), the injuries Barr sustained in the accident resulted in traumatic head injuries and an eight-month mental institution stay for the future television star.

She found herself on the fast track to fame

Only two years after her traumatic car accident, 18 year-old Roseanne Barr packed her bags, left her family's Salt Lake City home, and made the move to Colorado — a move that proved itself to be a pivotal time in Barr's life. 

An aspiring writer, Barr found steady work at a restaurant, serving customers food, drinks, and her trademark sass. When one customer likened her witty banter to that of Comedy Works, a local comedy club, Barr decided to make the leap and try her hand at stand-up comedy. She became a regular at clubs around Colorado, perfecting her act and eventually developing her "Domestic Goddess" persona. "I had a standing ovation every night," Barr wrote in her autobiography, "Roseanne: My Life as a Woman" (via People). 

After winning the Denver Laff-Off contest in 1983, Barr moved to Los Angeles, California, where she was an instant hit. In 1988 — only a few years after her move to Los Angeles — Barr's very first HBO special, "The Roseanne Barr Show," earned the comedian the American Comedy Award for Funniest Female Performer in a TV Special. 

Casting the Conners

In 1987, Roseanne Barr's no-nonsense, "Domestic Goddess" brand of humor caught the attention of Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner — executive producers of "The Cosby Show" who, according to an Entertainment Weekly interview, were looking to create a show about a "no-perks" American family. 

Because Barr was an inexperienced actor, Carsey and Werner sought experienced, talented actors to cast as her family so that Barr "could learn from them." According to "Roseanne" writer Matt Williams, he knew the team had a good thing going when John Goodman was brought in to read with Barr. "He looked at Roseanne, and said, 'Scoot over.' She said, 'Shut up,' and he plopped down, and it was like they had been married for 16 years," Williams recalled to Entertainment Weekly. 

Barr says she fell in love with Goodman the second she met him. He was the only actor to read for the role of Dan Conner, Roseanne's lovable goofball of a husband. After casting Goodman, Barr and the "Roseanne" producers carefully casted the remaining members of the iconic Conner clan with the likes of Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Michael Fishman, and Lecy Goranson. Just like that, there were six — and one of the most beloved American families was born. 

"I wrote it. I created it. I thought it up. I lived it."

Imagine, if you will, gathering with some of your closest friends and collaborators to witness your eponymous show's network television premiere. Imagine that you've poured every ounce of your creative energy into developing this show, drawing upon your comedy and real-life experiences, and crafting each character around your actual family. Now, imagine seeing "Created by Ben Williams" sprawled across the television screen during your show's opening credits. Would you be mad? If you happen to be Roseanne Barr, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

While Williams maintained that The Writers Guild of America is to blame for the credits fiasco, Barr didn't — and would never — buy his explanation. "I was the writer," she told Entertainment Weekly. "It wasn't that it was based off my life — it's that I wrote it. I created it. I thought it up. I lived it." 

As "Roseanne" grew more popular, Barr's working relationship with Williams worsened — eventually leading to his departure from the show. But Williams wasn't the only writer with Barr beef. Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of "Gilmore Girls," feels Barr diminished her worth during her time on the writing staff of "Roseanne," recalling to Entertainment Weekly that Barr would assign each writer a number in lieu of learning names. Barr's response? "They all have a lot of emotional problems, writers." 

She's learned a thing or two about love and loss

Roseanne Barr might be a "Domestic Goddess," but she's far from your typical housewife — just ask one of her ex-husbands! After divorcing her first husband, Bill Pentland, in January 1990, Barr went on to wed fellow comedian Tom Arnold that same month. 

According to Entertainment Weekly, at their wedding reception, Arnold exclaimed that he and Barr were "America's worst nightmare: white trash with money!" Highly criticized, the couple split in 1994 — a year before the star married her former bodyguard, Ben Thomas. 

That marriage came to an end in 2002 — Barr would later say that the two simply "weren't a good match." Coincidentally, 2002 is the year Barr met than man with whom she's shared her longest-lasting romantic relationship, Johnny Argent. "He was the most handsome man I've ever seen," Barr recalled about meeting her beloved beau for the first time. 

Breaking up is hard to do, but don't pity Barr too much. After all, her failed relationships gifted her with four of her most prized possessions — her children! The comedian shares three children with Pentland — Jessica, Jenny, and Jake — and one son, Buck, with Thomas. Barr is also the biological mother of Brandi Brown, to whom she gave birth at age 18 before placing her up for adoption. 

Roseanne might have ended, but her ambition never did

There's no doubt that "Roseanne" is the project for which Barr is most widely known, but the sitcom certainly wasn't the comedian's only silver screen venture. Following the series finale of "Roseanne," Barr returned to television as the host of her very own daytime talk show, aptly titled "The Roseanne Show."

"It's going to be everything," Barr said of the talk show before its September 1998 premiere, lauding her newest project as "upbeat, controversial, funny." But "The Roseanne Show" didn't hold a candle to the sitcom that made Barr a household name, and low ratings brought the talk show to an end in 2000 — only two years after its premiere. 

Never one to take no for an answer, Barr promptly started working on her next project, "The Real Roseanne Show." Meta before meta was even cool, "The Real Roseanne Show" documented Barr's adventures creating and hosting "Domestic Goddess," a cooking show. However, Barr's emergency hysterectomy delayed production, and "The Real Roseanne Show" was canceled merely two days after its 2003 premiere.

Barr came back full-force and nuttier than ever in 2011 with a brand spankin' new show titled "Roseanne's Nuts." The reality show aired on Lifetime and followed Barr's experiences as a macadamia nut farmer before having the plug pulled after one season. Hey, they can't all be winners.

"I'm not a liberal. I'm a radical."

Roseanne for president? If the comedian had her way, America's favorite "Domestic Goddess" would have a lot more house on her hands. 

In 2012, Barr ran for president as the Peace and Freedom Party's nominee. An introduction on the Peace and Freedom Party's website once said that Barr was choosing to use her fame "to speak out on behalf of unions, women and their issues in the workplace as well as their reproductive rights," as well as "the rights of LGBT Americans." Though she ultimately didn't secure the presidency in 2012, Barr hasn't counted out the idea of running for office again. "I'm going to keep running until I win," the star told People

However, the comedian-turned-politician opted to stay out of the 2016 presidential election — well, kind of. Never one to shy away from saying exactly what she thinks, Barr was outspoken in her support for then-candidate Donald Trump. "I think we would be so lucky if Trump won," Barr told The Hollywood Reporter. "Because then it wouldn't be Hillary."

Nearly a year into Trump's presidency, Barr showed no signs of a changed mind, despite President Trump's overwhelmingly low approval ratings. "I'm not a Liberal, I'm a radical," Barr said in a now-deleted tweet from December 2017 (via USA Today), adding that she voted for Trump to "shake up the status quo."

Controversy seems to follow her everywhere

In her later years, Roseanne Barr's tendency to do and say whatever she wants, whenever she wants, has proved to be a sore spot for those who disagree with her political leanings and controversial stances on social issues. 

In the wake of Trayvon Martin's tragic 2012 killing, Barr tweeted the home address of George Zimmerman, Martin's assailant. However, she soon deleted the tweet after receiving backlash from Twitter users citing an earlier incident involving Spike Lee tweeting the wrong address for Zimmerman, forcing an elderly couple to flee their home. "At first I thought it was good to let [people] know that no one can hide anymore," tweeted Barr (via The Smoking Gun), "But vigilante-ism is what killed [Trayvon]. I don't support that." 

Upon the 2018 revival of "Roseanne," controversial photos from 2009 featuring the comedian dressed as Adolf Hitler resurfaced, prompting more than a few raised eyebrows. The photos, originally published in the satirical Jewish magazine Heeb, featured the "Nazi domestic goddess" pulling cookies from an oven whilst donning a Hitler-inspired mustache. Publisher Joshua Neuman was quick to defend both Heeb and Barr, writing of the incident and other controversial moments like it, "We weren't trying to be shocking — we were trying to communicate something truthful about contemporary Jewishness." 

Don't call it a comeback!

An eight-episode revival run of "Roseanne" premiered in March 2018 on ABC, but Barr had long been planning to bring her titular character back to life. In 2009, Barr took to her personal blog to post a series of cryptic plot lines in a post titled "Reunion Show." Amongst the list of possible plot lines was "Darlene meets a woman and they have a test tube baby," "Mortgage before the house is foreclosed on," and "Dan shows up alive after faking his death." 

In fact, when it was announced in May 2017 that "Roseanne" would be coming back to ABC for a tenth season, fans immediately began to speculate on how, or if, the show would explain the Conner patriarch's super dark Season 9 death. "Roseanne" did not disappoint

"I thought you were dead!" Roseanne exclaims in the tenth season's first episode, upon waking up from a dream next to her sleeping husband. "I'm sleeping!" Dan replies, stripping off his giant CPAP mask. "Why does everybody always think I'm dead?" 

It's safe to say that fans were overjoyed to have the original Conner clan awake, alive, and together again.

The Roseanne reboot was short-lived

Fans were excited when the reboot of "Roseanne" aired in 2018, but the revival didn't last long. The show was axed, without anything to do with low ratings. In fact, Good Housekeeping noted that it was renewed for another season after just one episode aired. So what went wrong? The problem was the star of the show. In a now-deleted tweet, Roseanne Barr described the one-time advisor to Barack Obama, Valerie Jarret, in a racist manner. Fans were outraged — Barr later chalked up the offensive tweet to sleeping pill Ambien — and the backlash led to the cancellation of the show.

Fans still got their reboot, though. While "Roseanne" was canceled, a spin-off focused on the TV family called "The Connors" took its place. Per Vanity Fair, Barr's character was written off, dying of an opioid overdose. Barr later blamed on-screen daughter Sara Gilbert for getting her booted off the show as Gilbert was one of the main critics of Barr's tweet about Jarrett. Gilbert had tweeted that Barr's words "do not reflect the beliefs of ... anyone associated with our show" and that she was "disappointed in her actions." In an interview with The Washington Post, Barr claimed Gilbert's tweet "destroyed the show and my life." She added, "She will never get enough until she consumes my liver with a fine Chianti."

Roseanne Barr revived her stand-up comedy career

Roseanne Barr's sitcom may have come to an abrupt end, but her comedy career continued. After the cancellation of "Roseanne," the actress decided to return to her roots in stand-up comedy. Barr had quit stand-up some time earlier because she was told by ABC that any controversial comments could get reruns of "Roseanne" pulled off the air. "I was told that me getting in trouble one more time, I wouldn't have my reruns anymore," she said on the "Joe Rogan Experience" podcast (via TheWrap). "And I live on that [income], you know?"

After parting ways with the network, Barr decided to return to the stand-up stage in March 2019. In her first set at the Laugh Factory in Las Vegas, she revealed that her firing made her "real suicidal" (via USA Today). She went on to blast ABC in an expletive-laden rant, saying she "bail[ed] out" the "low-rated network" and brought them "the highest ratings ... in ten [expletive] years." She added that, while her character may have been killed off, "I ain't dead."

A few months later, Barr and fellow comedian Andrew Dice Clay went on a comedy tour titled "Mr. and Mrs. America," during which Barr once again took shots at ABC. She opened her set with (via The Hollywood Reporter), "About a year and a half ago, the Roseanne reboot came on television and we got 28 million people to watch it." She added, "So f*** Hollywood."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Her response to the COVID-19 pandemic raised eyebrows

Many celebrities stepped out of the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic, using quarantine as a time to recharge and reconnect with their families while social distancing. Roseanne Barr self-isolated in Hawaii, but raised eyebrows when she appeared on "Quarantined with Norm Macdonald" in April 2020. The outbreak was not widespread yet, and most people had no idea of how high the death toll would rise, which might explain some of her levity during the interview, in which she called the pandemic a way "to get rid of all my generation."

Revealing her conspiracy theory wasn't the only shocking thing she did in the interview. She said that she was "blessed" to have some time to herself and added that she was using her time in quarantine to "research and come up with the perfect lawsuit ... against Hollywood." According to Barr, she wanted to "compile [her] thoughts and "figure out how to f*** over everybody in the f***ing world over there."

A year later, Barr posted a meme on Instagram which labeled a picture of musician Willie Nelson as teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, saying, "The vaccine works great!" Barr captioned the picture, "Lol," hinting that she doesn't support COVID-19 vaccines.

Roseanne revealed that gardening is the secret to her trim figure

Aside from her comedy tour, Roseanne Barr has largely kept out of the public eye since the public shaming that led to the cancelation of "Roseanne." She does keep fans updated on Instagram, though, where her admirers have been wowed by her slim physique.

Fans who have followed Barr's career will know that she has worked to lose and keep off weight for decades. Per People, she had gastric bypass surgery in 1998, and her weight has fluctuated throughout her career. In a 2014 appearance on Today, she said she was working on getting more exercise. "I just want to keep getting healthy and let go of excess baggage to carry around, so I'm lighter on my feet and in my life," she said.

In the years since, Barr has kept to her goal. These days, she's looking fitter than ever and says she feels great. In a March 2021 Instagram post, Barr flaunted her figure in a form-fitting dress, captioning it, "Feeling good, looking better." In another showing off her trim body several weeks later, she revealed the secret to maintaining her figure, writing in the caption, "Losing weight thru relentless gardening."