Roseanne Barr is back on the screen again. The once-beloved comedienne and namesake of the hit sitcom from the late Eighties and Nineties, Roseanne, has a new comedy special on Fox Nation, the subscription service from Fox News. Titled Cancel This, it hearkens back to the short-lived Roseanne reboot, which aired from 2017 to 2018 before being canceled after Barr tweeted a picture of Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett with the caption “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”
What should have happened next, Roseanne says, was for Jarrett to appear on the show to roast her, both the person and the character. It would have been a teachable moment. It would have gotten tens of millions of views. Instead, though, she was canceled. After watching Cancel This, you have to suspect it was the right decision.
Her discussion of the incident is one of the few genuine moments in the hour-long set, with most of it feeling like ChatbotGPT’s interpretation of an angry boomer’s Facebook page. What happened, she explains, is that while she’s been on “psycho drugs” for most of her life, the addition of an Ambien and three beers did not provide the best mindset for making public proclamations at 1 a.m. Also, she didn’t have her glasses on and can’t see that well, so she thought Jarrett was white.
She quickly digresses from there, returning to her ill-fated attempts to sling the red meat she imagines Fox Nation’s viewers want. You see, she pivots, the real reason she was canceled was because Roseanne was just too successful, insinuating that the higher ups didn’t want to see a Trump supporter thriving. Asserting that television executives have disdain for popular shows that make them money is a strategy, I suppose, though her support for Trump was part of the reboot, so it’s an odd one.
The entire special meanders around in similar fashion with the real Roseanne only occasionally bubbling to the surface.
Filmed in Texas, where the comedienne now lives (at least half of the time, as she later mentions), Roseanne opens with paeans to the state. It’s a red state. It’s beautiful. When she looks out the bedroom window of her ranch, she sees baby deer eating the grass around her pool, which offers her the opportunity to “blow them to smithereens” with her AR-15. “Open-carry bitches!”
Comedy is often shocking, but gun owners and hunters do not enjoy blasting baby deer to smithereens just for the heck of it. And open carry has nothing to do with hunting, but that doesn’t stop Roseanne the character, the canceled conservative hero, from carrying forth in such fashion for most of the special, even as she reveals that she’s not the pure blue-collar right-winger she’s portraying.
For example, there’s the fact that she also has a house in Hawaii, and has for years, because she can grow weed there. When she goes to the store to get fake cheese for her entitled children and grandchildren — the awfulness of her family being a recurring theme — she drives a Tesla, one presumably bought prior to Elon buying Twitter and gaining right-wing cred.
Weed, fake cheese and the Tesla don’t stop her from laying waste to the sins of modernity that conservatives most care about, though. There’s a brief rant about pumpkin spice caramel macchiatos, a major point of concern for most people in 2023. She wonders if Democrats are intent on making abortion legal for “children” up to the age of fifty, which is the age her three “libtard” daughters, who are not in attendance for the special, are approaching. Fantasizing about offing your children is a conservative value, right?
Let’s not forget about QAnon and the Great Awakening, either, though Roseanne informs us that the real Q is “quarantine.” And what made quarantine so bad? Being stuck with your family. “You had to deal with that shit. You couldn’t run anymore.”
Her sons, a grandson and a godson are in the audience for this, though she didn’t suggest South Park-style late-term abortions for them. They must not be part of the “baby blood-drinking Democrat community.”
It’s a sad spectacle. A woman who gained fame for showing normal, working-class people in a positive light, basing a comedy around their lives without denigrating the characters or the real-life people who related to them, reduced to fantasizing about shooting Bambi, repeatedly denouncing her entitled children without mentioning who raised them and attempting to turn online rants into jokes.
Roseanne’s reality could serve as a vehicle to unite people, much as the original Roseanne once did. We’re a contradictory bunch, after all, without clear partisan political beliefs. Conservatives can drive Teslas and smoke weed. Liberals can live in the country. People of all political persuasions did get tired of being locked up with their families. My own youngest daughter, who at this juncture is something of an anarcho-socialist, vanished at one point in April 2020. We found her in the top of a bathroom closet where she’d gone to seek solace from the rest of us.
Roseanne once got that. She could have delivered that with Cancel This. She chose not to, because she was playing to an audience that exists largely in her mind, which was reflected in the actual audience reaction to the set. It was not hostile, it was not muted, but the laughs seemed more polite and perfunctory than genuine. She seems to have gotten what she was after, though, at one point saying, “Thank you for your validation.”
She got her paycheck. She’s back on screen. But Roseanne remains stuck in her own cancellation, delivering Impossible Burgers in place of a nice medium-rare topped with bacon and cheddar.