Barr, Roseanne

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BARR, ROSEANNE (1952– ), U.S. actress and comedian. Brought up in Salt Lake City, Utah, Barr had a checkered youth and adolescence. Dropping out of high school, she worked as a waitress and regaled her customers with her brash, irreverent humor. She made her way into comedy, working punk clubs and motorcycle bars. She evolved an act that, in her own words, could "get inside the stereotype [of the housewife] and make it three-dimensional from within." She toured nationally on the comedy club circuit, where she fine-tuned her characterization of the frumpy, controlling, acid-tongued "Domestic Goddess." She made well-received appearances on late night talk shows before starring in her own comedy specials on hbo. In 1985 she successfully auditioned for the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. In 1986 the Carsey-Werner Company approached her with a proposal for developing a situation comedy based on her stand-up routines. By 1987 The Roseanne Barr Show had won cable television's Ace awards for best special feature and Barr herself was named best female in a comedy.

Barr rose to American media superstardom with Roseanne on abc (1988–97). With John Goodman playing her husband in the series, Barr succeeded, as the eponymous mother of three, in presenting a realistic, no-holds-barred portrayal of working-class American life. In 1993 Barr won an Emmy and a Golden Globe award for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series.

The popularity of her sitcom broadened the audience for Barr as a public persona and greatly increased her power within show business. She pushed boundaries by having the series take risks and raising such issues as gender, homosexuality, and family dysfunction. The forthrightness of these dramatic moments was rare in primetime sitcoms, but the series continued to appeal to a wide audience. She did not write the scripts but had a good deal of artistic control. Many of the plots drew on aspects of her life prior to her success or referred to events in her own life at the time. Other episodes included dialogues that she proposed which addressed particular themes or issues.

In 1998 Barr was the host of her own daytime talk show, which lasted two seasons.

She appeared in several films: She-Devil (1989); the voice of Julie in Look Who's Talking Two (1990), Freddy's Dead (1991); Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1994), Blue in the Face (1995), and the voice of Maggie in Home on the Range (2004).

Like certain other high-profile celebrities such as Madonna, Sandra Bernhard, Britney Spears, and Demi Moore, Barr became involved in Kabbalah, asserting that it was the force behind her own reinvention and helped her transform chaos into serenity. Barr has written two books – Roseanne: My Life as a Woman (1989) and My Lives (1994).

[Rohan Saxena and

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]