Roseanne Barr is no stranger to controversy. Even at the height of her popularity as a beloved sit-com character and blue-collar hero, Barr managed to get her name in the headlines for various unpleasantries, whether it was mudslinging with former hubby Tom Arnold or her infamously classless version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” which she ended with a crude crotch grab followed by hocking a ball of phlegm. Was it meant to be funny? Maybe. Was it meant to be disrespectful? Maybe not. She was essentially miming what pro-baseball players often do during a game.
But her decision to blend that visual with an intentionally off-key rendition of the National Anthem rubbed a lot of people the wrong way — as did her recent racist tweet which referred to former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett as the offspring of the “Muslim Brotherhood & Planet of the Apes.”
Her words got her booted from the reboot of “Roseanne” last year and sent her spiraling into a dark period.
Overnight she became America’s villain, and several of her fellow “Roseanne” cast mates openly spoke out against her, while “Roseanne” consulting producer Wanda Sykes announced she would not return to the show. Barr blamed the tweet on her use of the drug Ambien and issued an apology, but the damage was done. The TV show continued on as “The Connors,” killing off the Roseanne character.
Since the scandalous tweet Roseanne has laid low, spending time at her home in Hawaii and generally being out of the public eye. Until now.
Barr has teamed up with another comic, the notorious Andrew Dice Clay, for a series of shows.
The duo is billing themselves as “Mr. & Mrs. America” and will head to Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City’s Etess Arena 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, for what one can only expect will be an outrageous night of comedy and controversy.
Most of Clay’s rockiest days are behind him, but in the early ’90s his over-the-top humor — complete with raunchy nursery rhymes and cigarette-smoking machismo — earned more than its fair share of protests. Though Clay’s standup has grown beyond just nursery rhymes and raunch, he remains true to the person everyone remembers from those days.
“Years ago the way I performed was very robotic, very cartoonish. I have evolved through the years, but I have stayed relevant because the material is about our society,” he notes.
And while buzz is big about this mini tour, getting it off the ground wasn’t easy. It was a long road to get Barr back onstage. she and Clay have been friends for more than 30 years. Once some of the smoke had settled from her tweet, he suggested she join him on stage at his Las Vegas show. But Barr was hesitant, wondering if the beating she took in the media had flattened her standup career entirely. Clay gave her the push she needed.
“He said ‘Come on stage and do 5 (minutes) and I’ll sit there on stage with you,’” Barr remembers. “So I said, ‘OK, if you’ll sit there with me, I’ll do it.’ But the audience got into it,” Barr says.
“She got a standing ovation the minute she came on. And walked off to a standing ovation,” Clay notes.
Though the appearance ultimately was a success, for Barr it was a mixed bag of emotions fueling her return.
“You don’t know if they like you or hate you — and it’s so much stress. Dice’s audience liked me, but they were looking at me like I was their mom,” she jokes.
Clay can relate to the position Barr was in, as it nearly mirrors many of his struggles in the past with the media.
“I’m a comedian who understands what it means to be attacked. I was treated worse than O.J. What every comic is dealing with today with the political correctness — what I call ‘nonsense’ — I was dealing with 30 years ago when my career went through the roof. And I had nobody sticking up for me back then besides Eddie Murphy, which always made me feel great,” says Clay. “Comics were going on morning TV shows to destroy me, and I’m going ‘I’m friends with this guy! He knows I’m a good guy!’”
Clay’s brash style always made him divisive, but to those who think his comedy is about intentionally being shocking, he is quick to set the record straight.
“It’s not about going over the top, it’s about saying the way it really is, but in a very funny, comedic way,” he says.
That may be the most obvious connecting point between Barr and Clay, as each prefers to rely on bluntness in their act. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if their facts are right, it’s that they believe that they are. It’s their version of the truth, so they come across as genuine.
“We’re both very rebellious people,” says Clay. “We both do whatever we want when we want to do it, and I always respected her for that.”
And for now, what they want to do is tour together. And though the current string of shows is a short one (just two for now), plans are in the works for Mr. & Mrs. America to take on a whole new life in the near future.
“We’re doing Atlantic City and Long Island and then we’re going to see what we feel like doing after that,” says Barr. “We’ll probably tour a whole lot in 2020.”
Barr may be keeping her cards close to her chest, but Clay let the cat out of the bag.
“We’re doing the Mr & Mrs. America Tour and we’re coming to Broadway after that. I’m not gonna really go into it because I don’t want to get the promoter and everybody crazy, but that’s what we’re going to do,” says Clay.
Broadway may never be the same.