Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My response to Roseanne

Wow! Roseanne reads my blog! Cool! In her blog she posted a rebuttal to a piece I wrote last week about her article in New York magazine. Here’s what I wrote. And on Sunday here’s what she wrote.

It’s silly to even get into a debate. I’d say the madness and paranoia of her rant speaks for itself. My reaction to it was sadness. She’s battling enormous demons. For all of her gifts and talent, that’s a steep price to pay.

I hope someday she finds some happiness in her life.

One loose end.  In her blog post she wrote this:

I took responsiblity for bad behavior, but explained that the bad behavior was during a nervous breakdown brought on by having to work in a hostile work environment, and I am pretty sure that women who have worked for you in the past (if indeed there were ANY) worked in a hostile work environment. Let me know, women writers out there--how were you treated on Ken Levine's staff?

Two women writers who worked with me and for me responded -- Robin Schiff, who was the co-creator and co-showrunner of ALMOST PERFECT with David Isaacs and I, and Linda Teverbaugh who was a producer on that show.    Also, I received a note from Laurie Gelman.  Not to stir the pot but she was the first woman producer of ROSEANNE season one.  Her account of that first year is markedly different from Roseanne's.  You decide.    My thanks to Robin, Linda, and Laurie. 

And again, Roseanne, you asked.  Let me just conclude by saying if you're reading this in Hawaii, I wish you aloha, trade winds, and anything to bring you some peace.  

From Robin Schiff:
I am a women writer who has worked with Ken Levine on three different occasions. Although he begged me to say nice things about him, I have to be honest and talk about my true experience.

Several (okay, many) years ago, I brought Ken and his partner David Isaacs an idea for a TV series. At the time, I didn’t have the experience (or cachet) to make it happen on my own. Ken and David loved the idea, which was about a strong, successful, likable, complex, opinionated woman trying to juggle a happening career with a satisfying lovelife. Not only did Ken and David get behind the fictional version of the woman, they instantly embraced the “real version” (me) as an equal and true partner. They were also my mentors, making sure I learned every aspect of producing. What they taught me was life-changing, giving me the tools to go on and have a career as one of a handful of female show runners. There are many sexist guys in the business, but Ken Levine is not one of them. The most sexist thing he ever did was blather on about baseball with the other men in the room despite the fact that I was visibly bored. Hardly grounds for a lynching.

One final thought. I totally agree with Roseanne that there is rampant sexism in the industry. A couple of weeks ago, the WGAw released its executive summary finding that (in addition to dismal stats for ethnically diverse or older writers), women comprise only 28% of working writers. We still make less money than men. All you have to do is look at the writers onstage accepting Emmys for late night talk shows and sitcoms to see that women comedy writers are on the endangered list.

That being said, it undermines the validity of a very real issue for all women anytime a woman explains away what might simply be fallout from her own actions by charging it up to sexism. Maybe Matt Williams should have given Roseanne a co-created-by credit for Roseanne. I can’t comment on that. But to say that this was because she was a woman doesn’t hold water since Matt Williams also took a sole created by credit on Home Improvement – which was based on Tim Allen’s stand-up act. I empathize with how unfairly Roseanne feels she was treated. But sexist? I would love to know how many female executive producers Roseanne employed on her own show. Did she foster talented women writers and empower them to become showrunners like Ken Levine and David Isaacs did with me? Just wondering…

From Linda Teverbaugh:

I hate to say it, being a great admirer of "Roseanne," the series (much of it, anyway), but Roseanne, the person, is talking out of her own asshat. She's right about one thing: She did hire standup friends as writers on the series. Tom Arnold's buddies, too. I know this because I'm a female writer from a blue-collar family who got screwed out of a job as a result. Thank you, Sister Woman. It was, however, my great good fortune to work for Ken shortly thereafter. Ken doesn't share Roseanne's fixation on "getting credit," so he'd never bring this up. But too bad, Ken, I'm going to: While Roseanne was literally farting on table drafts, throwing out scripts left and right, and as a consequence, holding all the writers' lives hostage, Ken busted his ass to keep the "Almost Perfect" room running efficiently, which meant keeping peace with the stage, the studio, the network, and all the other havoc makers who make sitcom hours exhausting or impossible. As far as I know he did not do this by threatening anyone with scissors. Instead, he made it possible for this working mother to leave work when the Paramount day-care center closed for the day, take my toddler son home and give him dinner. It meant the world to me, and, of all the female sitcom writers I know with kids, I'm one of the rare ones who ever got support like that. Sorry Roseanne, but that's fucking feminism.

And by the way, if Roseanne wanted "created by" credit, she needed to sit down with Matt Williams and help break and write the story for the pilot. That's what Drew Carey did with Bruce Helford.

And finally, from Laurie Gelman:

It didn’t take long for me to get a taste of the staggering sexism and class bigotry that would make the first season of Roseanne god-awful.

This makes me laugh every time I read it. I don’t know how she defines sexism, but she is one of the biggest perpetrators I have ever met. I was the first female writer producer on Roseanne and she absolutely refused to acknowledge me -- on stage or in the room. No eye contact. Nothing. She’s one of these women ( and I’m sure lots of your female writer friends can relate to this type) who likes to be the only woman in the room and play up to all the men. I was actually astounded by this because I expected her to be just the opposite. Now if you were below the line and kissing her tuchas to keep your job, you may have gotten another one of her many personalities, but this is a woman who is definitely threatened by smart, funny women and has to alpha dog all competitors. By the way, if the first season was so god-awful, how did we make it to number 1?

It was at the premiere party when I learned that my stories and ideas—and the
ideas of my sister and my first husband, Bill—had been stolen.

Really???? People actually broke into their minds and took them???? I was on the show from the rewriting of the pilot in New York all the way through the first season. There was never any point where Matt Williams did not include Roseanne in the creative process and actually want her input. In fact, I have never worked with an EP more inclusive or fair ( or nicer) than Matt Williams. He bent over backwards to please her. We made it a point to bring her into the room and get her take on every idea before we laid out the stories. Obviously, we also accommodated her notes on all the drafts. Additionally, Matt permitted her husband Bill Pentland to sit in on all the rewrite tables, thus giving her additional insurance that the Roseanne take on things was being adequately addressed.

The pilot was screened, and I saw the opening credits for the first time, which included this: CREATED BY MATT WILLIAMS. I was devastated and felt so betrayed that I stood up and left the party.

Great. More food for us.


Lizbeth said...

Having followed Ken's blog for years, I also had the pleasure of partaking in one of his first Sitcom Room seminars, and I can say I would work for Ken in a heartbeat...the man is both funny AND sane!

If Roseanne offered me my dream writing job tomorrow and offered me millions of dollars, I'd run for the hills. I simply would never want to be around that much toxic energy.

Ken has something Roseanne will never have (no not a penis, but I guess that too) -- A HEALTHY SENSE OF HUMOR.

I always admired what Roseanne was able to accomplish...but find her angry rants just sad.

She calls herself a comedy writer? How great would it have been if she responded to Ken's post with intelligent humor rather than resorting to infantile name-calling??

John said...

Anger can be a driving force behind comedy, especially stand-up routines. But you also need to have some sort of self-awareness about your own flaws and failures. Roseanne comes across in her posts and her actions as someone whose done little if any introspection over the past two decades on whether or not some of her problems have been the result of her own actions -- it's always someone else's fault when things go wrong.

Unless Roseannn's trying to do a routine based on dusting off Fanny Brice's Baby Snooks character (if Fanny's routine involved dressing up like Hitler and baking "Jew cookies"), acting like a spoiled 8-year-old is no way to win friends and influence people.

Pat Quinn said...

Well done. I am sure that Barr could shake a female out of the Hollywood tree that might disparage you for one reason or another...but the fact that you had three professionals shine the light on the passive/aggressive accusations that she sent your way ... to me that seems like the definitive way to deal with this.

Great point made by the woman who pointed out that the producer took "created by" credit for Tim Allen. He must be sexist against women AND men. Bisexist?

Lizbeth said...

Also, wanted to add that I read through the comments on Roseanne's post, and they are all equally delusional.

However, one female commenter called Roseanne out for attacking a fellow blogger since she herself is controversial and often attacks celebrities in her blog.

Roseanne's answer was to kick the female commenter to the curb, telling her to never come back and calling her:

"the perfect patriarchal female--attacking women who are braver and smarter and more accomplished than you will ever be (yes that's me)"


If Roseanne wasn't crazy she would encourage a healthy discourse and stop talking about herself as if she were the female Jesus.

I've seen Ken get attacked countless times in his comments section for his more controversial posts and he always handles it with grace and humor.

Aaron Hazouri said...

Roseanne has moved on from being either funny or relevant. I guess watching her stand up routines from the 1980s one might have thought her a blue collar comedian (like those guys who do that tour nowadays) without realizing how much pain and anger was there, and how seriously she took herself.

I wasn't a fan of the show during its initial run (I was a kid when it started and a teenager by the time it was done). Nobody in my house watched it. We all thought it was crass and obnoxious.

I think that was a case of her true personality shining thru in spite of everything else.

Brian said...

So someone who had one successful show is telling us how awful people who have worked on/created/written for multiple successful shows are?

You're a one-trick pony, Roseanne. The rest are talented people who can see beyond their own self interests.

Melissa said...

It's really a shame. My husband and I saw Roseanne doing standup at Laughs Unlimited in Sacramento in 1985. She wasn't the headliner but she was so much funnier than any of the other comedians that we remembered her and later watched her show because of that performance.

I have to admire John Goodman who, like, Jon Cryer, stayed out of the drama and never said a word. (As far as we in the public know)

Bill White said...

This is all kinda sad, as I really like Roseanne's show, but seeing her behaving like this, and attacking someone she doesn't even know, really taints my enjoyment of it now.

I would like to know: How is "gypped" a "racist term"?

I DID smile at her calling Ken an "asshat". WT...? I guess Roseanne can still make me laugh!

Manuel Wolff said...

This is just sad. Let it go. Roseane once was a great Comedian, now she is a troll.

"Your writing is so arrogant and narcissitic that I would fire you if I could, because you deserve it."

That'S what she wrtes, and she accuses you of being a white jewish male.

Seriously, don't feed the troll.

Brian said...

Personally, I'm sick of hearing millionaire actors talking about the "nervous breakdowns" they had starring in their own TV shows. The people who SHOULD be having nervous breakdowns are the regular people out in the real world who are working 2 and sometimes 3 jobs for not a lot of money and are just trying to provide food and a home for their kids... but they don't have time for "nervous breakdowns"... they're too busy taking care of their families.

Len said...

One of my first job interviews when I came to LA for writing was for one of those Tom Arnold sitcoms he kept trying to do unsuccessfully. The appointment was postponed five times over the course of three weeks. We decided to give up. Our agent at the time looked at the upside for us.

"You don't want to work for him anyway. He learned how to treat people like pigs from Roseanne."

Charles H. Bryan said...

I read Roseanne's article in New York magazine after Ken wrote about it (ordinarily I wouldn't have read it, as I tend not to read much of anything written by or about performers, but it did make me wonder if NYMag has a fact-checking department), and then the further back and forth, and it is all sort of depressing. I hope there are no more rounds in this fight.

Stu said...


Stu said...

Bill - 'gypped' comes from 'gypsies' I believe.

SharoneRosen said...

Bill, how is gypped a racist term?

It actually is. Taken from "gypsy," (no, not like Gypsy Rose Lee). The implication being that all gypsies cheat and steal.

Just think of me as your "Word-a-Day" calendar

Nat G. said...

How dare these female writers criticize Roseanne, a fellow Writer's Guild member? After all, she would never criticize a Guild member. She only goes after folks like Matt Williams, Chuck Lorre, the various members of her show's writers room whom she celebrated firing... and they couldn't be Guild members, could they?

Yossi Mandel said...

Having witnessed the tremendous pain she caused her gentle family members, I swing your way in this debate.

Anonymous said...

I am just a tv fan, but her appearance on Oprah was interesting. She believed for years that Oprah cheated when they arm wrestled but did not go back and watch it and really see. She just decides to hold that grudge. When Oprah showed the video, it was obvious Rosanne had cheated.

Mac said...

Spot on, Ken. It's a depressing story of talent and potential brought down by overwhelming flaws.
As a writer who was put through hell by another talented comic with huge psychological problems, it's tough for me to feel for Roseanne. But with a bit of distance from the situation, you realize that someone like that is already in hell, they're just trying to pull you down so that they're not
alone there.

Jon88 said...

Roseanne Now makes it much harder to enjoy Roseanne Then. Hard to separate the woman and the work. (PS Hey Robin, unless you were hiding your work somewhere, it's "cachet.")

Unknown said...

"But I explained the scissors - I had a nervous breakdown back then".

Now imagine an African American say that in front of a grand jury.

I'm neither black nor female but this mental disconnect is baffling.

Emily Blake said...

My mom always taught me that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. So I'll just say this:

Know what sitcom I really liked as a kid? Soap. Soap was a good show.

John D'Oh said...

Roseanne and Oprah arm wrestled? Seriously?? And there was cheating??
That's just amazing when you think about it.
Today's post probably won't be 'the last word' on this (figuring Roseanne will have to fire back), but I hope it's the last time you'll be writing about it, Ken.
I vote we all move on. Plenty of other fun stuff to discuss.

By Ken Levine said...

This will be my last post on this. Too many other important things to get to, like how I punked the city of Baltimore (that's tomorrow).

Mike said...

"I took responsiblity for bad behavior, but explained that the bad behavior was during a nervous breakdown brought on by having to work in a hostile work environment"

I don't think she knows what "taking responsibility" means...

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

Wow! I'm impressed with this round of rebuttals. And all of this because of a show that left the air 14 years ago.

One thing that really made me laugh, other than Roseanne's harsh wording, was the reaction of the commenters on her article. She can certainly form a rally, regardless of the viciousness that comes with her words.

Robin, if you're reading this, I just want to say I absolutely LOVED Grosse Pointe, especially the episode where the producers hired a female showrunner to retool their fictional show. Ironic that she was let go by the network after going through a very similar power trip to Roseanne's.

JBW said...

Just wanted to mention that I too read Roseanne's article and her vicious rebuttal to Ken, as well as the comments to her blog post. And those comments left me -- well, "astounded" isn't the right word. Maybe "unsurprised" is. Or "slightly dismayed," perhaps. They all flocked to attack Ken with the most vituperative ad hominem attacks, and not a one of them addressed a single point Ken raised. Most guilty of this is Roseanne herself, and it seems that her blog is simply a means by which she can surround herself with gushy-luckies and enablers to reinforce her monomania. Shameful -- but not in the least bit surprising on the internet.

Michael Zand said...

Yes, Ken, you're right. It should end here. She's not worth wasting any more time. She is ultimately a sad and miserable person who will never know true happiness.

jbryant said...

I wish the ladies had posted their replies on Roseanne's blog as well (if they did so, they're not there now). Would love to hear Roseanne's response, although I suppose it would just be something about how they're typical "patriarchal females" who are afraid they won't work again if they speak "truth to power," or some such.

I love the commenters who go on about "some guy named Ken Levine" that they've never heard of. As if they can rattle off the names of every writer on their favorite sitcoms. Or as if Ken's impressive credits are hard to ferret out in the age of Google and imdb (hell, a glance at the right side of the blog homepage is sufficient).

Angelina Burnett said...

I just posted this on her blog:

For the record... I am a woman. I am a writer of television. And I found nothing sexist or racist about Levine's post. I am grateful for the trailblazing women such as yourself have done. Thanks to you, it's considerably less difficult to be a woman doing this job. I have been encouraged and supported by the men for whom I've worked. In fact, all my mentors and champions have been men. They are good and kind and talented and I am forever in their debt. You changed things, Roseanne. Maybe it's time to unclench your fists. You might find not everyone's looking for a fight.

Unknown said...

this has to one of the nicest TOTAL PWNAGE'S ever, lol

Howard Hoffman said...

Now that I finally read her diatribe, I can safely agree with her own assessment that she needs help. I don't know where she came to her conclusions, but her labeling you as a white Jewish male who's protected by his own kind speaks volumes about her own discrimination issues.

And her "fans" who think they're showing support are doing nothing more than validating and enabling her illness.

You, Robin, Linda and Laurie got the rightful and sane last word on this silliness.

Jim said...

SO Kim was really Robin and GAry was Ken? How much did you two play that one up in the writer's room, and how much time did everyone else spend trying to guess the back story on any lines you came up with for those characters? And is it harder to write for a character when you all know that he or she is quite substantially based on someone who's in the room?

50 is the new 35 said...

I re-read Ken's initial post, and still consider what he wrote to be fair and respectful overall ... neither of which would possibly describe the vitupertive tirade that Roseanne posted on her blog.
Both she and her blog commenters are batshit crazy. I almost - ALMOST - left a comment to refute the garbage they were spewing about Ken and the alternate reality they've created (what the hell color IS the sky in her world??) in which Roseanne is the poor victimized genius catching flack only because she is a woman and because we 'lesser mortals' are jealous ... but I knew it would be a useless effort on my part.

In case "her Highness" (and I'm not referring to royalty there!) or her delusional court jesters are reading this ... I'm a 50 YO woman who has worked hard, developed my professional network and my relevant talents, and played fair to attain a good measure of success and respect in my field. And let me make it clear: I'm neither brainwashed by the "patriarchal system", an ass-kisser of any "stripe", jealous of your Highness' talents, a member of the Hollywood elite, nor a Ken Levine sycophant.

I do, however, know class (and a lack thereof) when I see/read it. It's not that difficult to treat others with respect and kindness and still maintain a productive, creative work environment - you should try it sometime.

And even my teen-aged son knows better than to try to lay the blame for the fallout from his own actions on others. You want to be a humorless autocratic tyrant who expects - no, demands - that all within her sphere kowtow in fear? Fine. But OWN that. Don't blame it on sexism, or narcissism, or any other "-ism" in your thesaurus. Angry at what you perceive to be shortcomings of our society? Fine. But channel it constructively and apppropriately. Some people are just bitter, demanding, and unpleasant. You seem to be one of them. Lighten up - life may be a lot more fun if you can take off the shit-colored glasses from time to time.

Ken, while few would argue that Roseanne is a talented writer/comedian (wouldn't dream of labeling her with "comedienne", in case she perceives that as a pejoritive), you have contributed more to the entertainment industry during the course of your career than Ms. Barr could ever dream of achieving with her "one trick pony" approach. And, by all appearances, you've built your success while remaining a mensch to those with whom you work. You seem to have raised a couple of nice, bright, stable kids to boot. And you didn't even have to make your production team cry or sleep with your bodyguard in the process. Imagine that. :-)

Ger Apeldoorn said...

You are not sexist, of course. But I do suspet a bit of actorism here, that is: the tendency to get snippy about actors who think they should be listened to and get credit for ideas they don't have the endurenace or the talent to see them through to the end. Which is not helped by the fact that although writers may get credits those actor think they deserve, the actors get all the attention and money and parties and interviews... which some of us on this side of the fence think should be enough.

Max Clarke said...

Now THAT'S the way to present a response to a raving rebuttal.

BatDog said...

Thank you, Ken, for having eloquent women speak here to make your point; it was an incredibly classy way to respond. It made your point so much more clearly than a lengthy diatribe. (I loved Angelina's comment as well.)

I really appreciated that you included some statistics in this post that showed that sexism is a problem in your industry (and probably in most fields at this point—to say that gender discrimination is no longer a problem in the US is naive).

As a woman in the entertainment world, I agree that there is rampant sexism. But women will overcome that sexism by doing their jobs well, mentoring other women, and having a thick skin, not by attacking others and acting irrationally. I cringe when my female colleagues do something embarrassing—it makes it that much harder for me to succeed. The thick skin part is the hardest, to eat sh*t gracefully and rise above when you are struggling to do your best work under trying circumstances.

To be fair, I have heard of a few situations in TV writing rooms where gender issues have gotten out of hand (Letterman and whatever show that was that accused the showrunner of a frat mentality in a lawsuit, as well as rumored issues on another show that had a female lead but almost no women writers). I don't doubt that some situations get out of hand if there are too many toxic personalities in close quarters. But threats and irrational behavior aren't going to make things better.

My very limited acting experience taught me that you need an incredibly healthy ego in order to survive that profession intact; Hollywood has got to be an intense pressure cooker under the best of circumstances. I think Roseanne is someone who did not have the ability to rise above in this situation, and as her career wanes, her blogging/articles have a whiff of desperation to them that really is kind of sad. To resort to name-calling is just pathetic.

I'm going to say something very honest and embarrassing: I think it is true that it is hard for women to mentor each other. If you get used to being the only woman in a situation (and enjoying the attention that brings), it is hard to give that up. Most of it is ego, that you've succeeded where other women didn't. I believe as another generation goes by, and women are more commonly closer to equal footing with men, that this lack of feminine solidarity will begin to dissipate (Title IX has also helped, by encouraging girls to participate in team sports). This development will take the longest in highly competitive professions, because lack of employment tends to foster backbiting and political maneuverings, whereas plentiful employment encourages communality.

Thanks again for the way you handled this. I really enjoyed hearing from the women writers you included today. Perhaps they could do some more guest spots? I would like that.

Kirk said...

Rosanne was a well-written show until the final season. Whether that was because of Rosanne herself or someone else, I don't know, I wasn't there. But the lady's not helping her case any.

D. McEwan said...

Momma DeGarmo, move over. Roseanne has topped you.

"Mike said...
'I took responsiblity for bad behavior, but explained that the bad behavior was during a nervous breakdown brought on by having to work in a hostile work environment'

I don't think she knows what 'taking responsibility' means..."

On the nose right. I was reminded of one of Nixon's self-serving speeches on Watergate back durng his horrific presidency, when he said: "I take the responsibility, but NOT the blame!" It's been almost 40 years, and I still haven't figured out the difference when Nixon split that microscopic hair.

And did that "nervous breakdown" last for 9 years? So she pled "Guilty but with an excuse."

Her originality remains intact. "Asshat" is new to me. Wouldn't an asshat be pants?

Her comments column is even crazier; true believers who make Charlie Sheen sound reasonable. Roseanne's comment in reply to a commenter deep into her comments section is the craziest of all.

(Irrelevant side note: did everyone see and enjoy Jay Mohr's send-up of Charlie Sheen on Law & Order: CI this weekend. It was terrific.)

Apparently any criticizm of Roseanne at all, even by women, is part of the male conspiracy against "a righteous crusader". She plays that sexism card over and over, as it's the only card in her hand.

I loved where she declared how much she would like to fire Ken, I guess from his blog. It's like a future firing he can bank. She's so crazy about firing people, she even wants to fire people who don't work for her. I wonder if she wanders the streets of Hawaii, firing random people she passes on the sidewalk.

I worked at The Comedy Store, both as a performer and as a doorman, 30 years ago. Last night, one of the other comics-doormen I worked with came over to my home for the evening. (I am actually able to sustain friendships over long periods. Can Roseanne?) I had left The Comedy Store before Roseanne arrived, but he was still there for her early days.

I showed him Roseanne's article, Ken's, and Roseanne's reply. He said that, given the tactics he witnessed her employiing to further her stand-up career in those long, long ago days when she was completely unknown, and always unable to charm her way into jobs, she should, he said, be considered the president of the Hollywood Knob Gobblers Association into which she has damned all of we who comment here. (And to repeat myself from yesterday, I am a proud, actual knob gobbler.)

He recounted when he was working as a writer on a game show when Roseanne, having become known, but still before her sitcom, was a guest celebrity. He came over and offered to help her with her material for the show. She refused his help rudely, with a snarled: "I write all my own material." He said "fine" and walked away. Not ten minutes later there was a quiet knock at his office door. It was Roseanne, now without her entourage/audience, asking: "Could you help me with this material please?"

Frran Drescher should keep Roseanne on retainer; she makes Fran look reasonable and pleasant to work for.

The worst of this is, now I have to stop eating Macadamia nuts, which I love - especially honey-roasted - so I don't inadvertantly eat ones from her nut farm and continue to support her career.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Does this asshat make me look fat?

-Tallulah Morehead
Founder and President Emeritus of The Hollywood Knob Gobblers Association.

Dana Gabbard said...

"I am pretty sure that women who have worked for you in the past (if indeed there were ANY) worked in a hostile work environment."

The first rule of court conduct is always know the answer to a question before you ask it. A good rule for life too. Roseanne assuming horror stories would result from the response to this comment certainly proves the point as it backfird on her bigtime.

I was curious if Rosanne responded what would piss her more--Ken's critique or the folks defending her. They should be thankful she didn't go all "I can speak for myself" at them.

BTW. I couldn't read her original piece (tried twice but ground to a halt in the face of slogging through all the self-pity and self-serving dross) and didn't even try to read her response to Ken. Some may rip me one that I haven't given both sides a fair hearing, etc. Fine, Roseanne can feel aggrived a nobody like me didn't give her a fair hearing. I'm sure she'll pile that onto her already huge mound of griveances etc. I'll lose no sleep over my actions.

Lizbeth said...


Looks like the LA Times got wind of the entertainment feud of the century:

Levine vs Barr


Me me me said...

@ d mcewan & tallulah :)

Asshat has been around between 10-15 years

Originally used as a slightly more polite & somewhat
more humorous putdown than *asshole*

And darling, nothing makes you look fat!

Tallulah Morehead said...

"Me me me said...
@ d mcewan & tallulah :)
And darling, nothing makes you look fat!"

Thank you darling. Cheers!

Pete Grossman said...

Ken, dug your response. I almost got a nose bleed from the high road you took. You're indeed a class act.

Becky said...

For D McEwan on Nixon's statement, "I take the responsibility, but NOT the blame!"

Here's the difference: "the blame" - I'm the one who messed up; "the responsibility" - my people messed up, but since they're my people, it's ultimately my fault because I didn't do a better job managing and/or training them.

It's why a submarine CO gets fired when his Navigator runs them into a seamount, even though he was asleep in his stateroom at the time. The theory is that although the CO didn't give the order to head that direction at that depth, if he'd made sure his Navigator was trained better, it wouldn't have happened. Thus, his responsibility.

From what I've read by Roseanne, she's incapable of either.

DaveMB said...

Credit where due: The line that D. McEwen quotes about responsibility and blame was not actually the real Nixon but from David Frye's comedy album Richard Nixon: A Fastasy. I suppose I could look it up but from memory this is very close:

[Nixon's voice, purportedly in a TV address to the nation about Watergate:]

"...Of course I take full responsibility for this senseless and illegal action. But not the blame. Let me explain the difference. People who are to blame lose their jobs. People who are responsible do not..."

DaveMB said...

Crap: "D. McEwan" and "fantasy", of course.

Ian said...

Wow. Unbelievable. I don't have much to add, except to say that you showed remarkable restraint by letting Ms. Barr's comments speak for themselves. No point in responding to an insane rant from a hateful nutcase. The woman is, as they say, wicky in the wacky-woo.

Steve said...

Well done, Ken. Somehow I knew it would turn out this way. Now if no one brings up Patricia Heaton, my day will be made.

Not Ken said...

So here's my only question arising from this, Ken: How does she know you're a white, Jewish male, unless she's seen you pantsless?

I think there's another story here, hidden in plain sight...

jbryant said...

Yeah, my girlfriend made me an "asshat" avatar for another forum about six years ago, but the term does seem to be turning up more lately.

D.: I saw the Mohr episode of L&O:CI a few weeks ago when it first aired, and thought it was excellent, too. Nice change of pace for Mohr. Coincidentally, I had just finished reading his SNL memoir a couple of weeks before that. A candid memoir and a good, quick read despite a few minor factual errors.

RJ Battles said...

Dear Ken, I thought your initial response to Roseanne's NY Magazine piece was very fair and you went out of your way to balance your complaints.
I was surprised (I guess I shouldn't have been) that she didn't take it the way it was intended.
I always liked her and watched her show up until the last season when it fell apart. She and the rest of the cast were very funny.

It's too bad that after all this time she can't see that although a few people there were assholes, she handled things badly, and probably ended up acting worse than the worst of them.

The fact that she brags about having George Clooney smash the cake that the network sent shows that she doesn't get it. Maybe it wasn't a car, maybe it wasn't what she thought she should've gotten, but it was a gift, it was an act of goodwill, and she was very rude.

I think her problem was/is: She thinks that you either have to be abusive or be a victim- there's no other role.

It is possible to get your point across and still be polite and kind to people.

Mike Barer said...

You cannot apply reason to argue with an unreasonable person.

Sharon said...

I read Roseanne's original piece when other women in my Facebook news feed began posting it, "liking" it, and inserting other supportive comments. In reading her article, I thought that perhaps she made some valid points, but that most of those points were destroyed by her own bias.

Her article was more of a "memoir" of those times, and memoirs are by their nature shaded by our own memories of the events we are relating.

I don't doubt that sit-com writers can be sexist and even vulgar to women sharing their space (Ken Levine and David Isaacs, notwithstanding).

In Tina Fey's "Bossypants," we learn how quickly and effectively Fey shut down another writer, male, who called her a "cunt." Why did this man feel that the use of that word directly into the face of another professional writer was or would be acceptable?

That it took place not in the 80s, but the 00s is a sobering thought. How far have we really come? However, that Fey shut the guy down in about two seconds, didn't tolerate it, and then moved on proved that her brain was at work, her esteem was intact, and that if this man wanted to work with that woman a certain amount of respect was involved.

One does not see Roseanne taking a similar and adept stance - then or now.

I've often thought of Roseanne as a ground-breaker, as someone who had to endure the patriarchy of Hollywood, as someone "smart." She had to fight a lot of in-house prejudice, one would assume, and there was a lot at stake - her name was in the title. I watched her show from the get-go, and then like many was disappointed with the last season (when I stopped watching).

And then, cut to many years later, I found her on Facebook. (She's since deactivated her account.) It was her official FB account - personal photos, identifying statements, reactions to comments, the works. And guess what? She was bat-shit crazy. Anyone who disagreed with her was "screamed" at, made fun of, and banished from her page. Which is fine - it was her personal FB page to do with what she wanted.

But she was so outrageous and seemingly crazy that it scared me to read some of what she was writing. I even asked a mutual friend if this was truly Roseanne and not some impostor. "It's Roseanne," he told me. "She's just that way."

When Roseanne directed her FB friends to listen to a radio program she co-hosted with her boyfriend, I was curious. What kind of show would it be? Well, it was more of the same as her Facebook page - simply bat-shit crazy rantings. A horrible show. (Does she still do it? Not sure.)

Between the Facebook page and the radio show I had to conclude what many other people had concluded long before me (and I most likely resisted) - Roseanne is just a mean, unforgiving - and worse - dumb person.

She's no Tina Fey, a smart, savvy, witty woman who knows her worth. No, Roseanne was, is and continues to be a lost and crazy soul.

So when I read the New York piece, and then Ken's take on the piece, I knew she'd have a response to Ken. And that response is the Roseanne who is truly Roseanne - not the cleaned up, spell-checked, coherent-sounding Roseanne of the New York article.

The cherry on the icing of her near-nonsensical rebuttal to Ken was her foaming at the mouth response to a reader of her blog who dared question (in a civil manner) her.

If anyone had any doubt as to how Roseanne was in those writer's rooms or on her TV production set, all one had to do was read her blog response to Ken and to a reader who politely disagreed.

Facebook, the radio show, the New York piece, her blog - I'm done with Roseanne. She does not speak for me as a woman, or as the caring "feminist" she pretends to be. She needs to work on being a caring human being first.

Are you listening, Roseanne? Or are the voices in your head that tell you that you are always right too loud to hear anyone else?

Baylink said...

One of the things that I have learned in being engaged on the Internet since before it existed (I started participating in Usenet in 1982, while at junior college) is that when you look at the two sides of an argument that's being had, well over 50% of the time, one side is being logical and rational and calm, and the other side is ranting and raving at frothing at the mouth.

It will be left as an exercise for the reader which side I have found to be *right* in most of these cases.

My compliments and thanks to the three writers whose replies on this topic Ken quotes in his posting here; you've pretty much clinched the argument.

cadavra said...

Whaddya say we all chip in and buy her a smoked-salmon pizza? Maybe it'll calm her down.

paul said...


John G said...

Just wanted to note that Vulture (part of NY Mag) has picked up on this back-and-forth. For those of us who follow this blog, it won't have anything new, but it can be found here.

gottacook said...

The idea (the reality too, I'm sure) that editorial attention was needed to produce "the cleaned up, spell-checked, coherent-sounding Roseanne of the New York article" is amusing because it makes me recall Roseanne's stint as "guest editor" of The New Yorker for a 1995 issue, when the magazine was under Tina Brown's leadership.

Mary Stella said...

I went to the LA Times ShowTracker link that someone posted about the "Blog Fight". First thing I noticed is that Ken got top billing in the headline as the "Cheers" Scribe.

At the end of the article, the writer said, Who's in the wrong here: Barr, for using the s-word (sexist) and using it to brand a man she's never worked with, or Levine, for using the m-word (monster) on a woman he's never met? We await your response in our sure-to-get-heated comments section below.

They posted that article at 1:42 PM. Depending on whether that's LA time or East Coast time, that's between 7 and 10 hours ago and yet, no comments.

If the writer and publication hoped to stir the pot, they have their work cut out for them.

Ted said...

Mary Stella: I commented on that L.A. Times blog -- I thought it was ridiculous that the writer said (in reference to the women who wrote in about working for Ken), "The verdict? Ken Levine is not a sexist -- sorta." (She seemed to take it seriously when Robin Schiff joked about being offended by baseball chat in the writer's room.)

I had to sign in to Facebook to post the comment -- but a moment later, it had disappeared. I have a feeling a lot of people tried to comment and had the same thing happen.

Apparently, the L.A. Times believes its blogs should only appear to accept comments, but not actually post them.

Pat Reeder said...

To Doug McEwan:

I don't where the term "asshat" came from, but in recent years, it's become a buzzword among people who hang out at the weird news site, Fark.com, and so has spread around the Internet. I would not be in the least bit surprised if some of the comments on Fark.com forums were actually from Roseanne.

VW: "kildle" The Amazon reader for murder mysteries.

barrycode said...

I recall all too well that period when that nervous, motor-mouth, unfunny Tom Arnold was the story and Roseanne dragged him into every latenite talkshow invitation she had. Apparently you had to take him too. They just sat there, she often ignored the host as they made stupid jokes with each other. It was her ego trip, bringing him and his friends on the show. Then there was the "special(s)" with him. Lately I was watching one of those Drew Carey improv shows, for the "Superheros" sketch, the audience shouted out "Tom Arnold" as the figure to play. The result was short, funny, scathing testimony to Roseanne and Arnold. No matter what she will try to write, there seems alot of industry knowledge around her and no one seems to care of her effect on their career now.

mrswing said...

@Ger: There's no 'actorism' at work here, only 'justiceism'. Someone like Roseanne destroyed people's lives for years and years (just watch the documentary on the making of Roseanne where a female writer is crying to the camera in the middle of the night begging the documentary crew for an idea for a joke so Roseanne will finally be pleased) and consider this their birthright, just because they are a star and therefore much better than anyone else.
And now Roseanne writes an article in which she is the poor innocent widdwe victim of those awful sexist, racist males, while spewing racism and sexism herself. Sick, sad and disgusting.

WizarDru said...

The origin of the term 'asshat' is one that is much debated. There are two places where you can directly find references that could have led to it: Raising Arizona and City Slickers both have lines that refer to wearing your ass as a hat (in 'Arizona', John Goodman warns people that if they get up too soon from a bank robbery, they'll wear their ass as a hat. In City Slickers, Bruno Kirby tells Billy Crystal that a girl is flirting with him and that her 'Good Night' actually meant 'could I wear your ass as a hat?' (i.e. presumably referring to a particular sex act).

The use of it as a pejorative dates back at least to 1999...and the discussion of where it came from to not long after that. There is a lot of theories about the etymology of the term...many of them being contradictory. One claims that people in the 1960s wore actual bowler-hat shaped inserts in their pants, which is hilarious. Many claim it means you have your head up your ass. No one can seem to find the first usage...one poster claimed his grandfather used it, so it must date to WWII.

Needless to say, a lot of that doesn't really wash. Either way, it's not a new term.

Naz said...

It's good to get out of the mud puddle. Looking forward to your next post Ken.

Mary Stella said...

Ken, nowhere else but your blog will one find an informative discussion on the conflicting origins of "asshat".

@Ted: There's still only one comment showing. Perhaps we weren't controversial enough to make it on their list.

Mike Botula said...

I read Roseanne's New York Magazine article, then your comments and finally her blog posting. To be honest, I found it hard to believe that the magazine article and the blog posting were both written by the same person. So, she's now farming in Hawaii. It figures.

Unknown said...

So she complains of sexism, and then uses "ball-less little bitch" (before mentioning your ethnicity) as a put-down. Yeah, I never watched her show. Thank goodness. She's a mean-spirited person who is continuing to lash out at people she can't bully.

Kirk said...

Roseanne and Ken may be equally guilty of making unfounded accusations.

Roseanne accuses Ken of being sexist, yet offers no proof he's ever mistreated or looked down on a woman simply because of her gender.

Ken accuses Roseanne of being a monster, yet offers no proof she's a fan of Lady Gaga.

Johnny Walker said...

Ouch. That was such painful reading I actually feel sorry for Roseanne.

I guess this is the final word on the matter, unless Roseanne is going to start attacking into her fellow female writers. (Let's hope she doesn't.)

Johnny Walker said...

Roseanne has already responded. I'd be interested to know Ms Gelman's opinion on the following:

"The pilot that Matt wrote had my character as a sweet and supportive wifey and Laurie Metcalf's character as 'Roseanne'. His title was 'Life and Everything' -- He made me into June Cleaver and Jackie into a feminist aunt."

"I WROTE SIXTY PERCENT OF THE words in my pilot - on stage - where Matt had them typed into the script that bore his name."

Did Roseanne really help co-write the pilot? If so, she should have gotten a co-created by credit, right? Of course, in the past she's just said that Matt used the character she honed after eight years on stage... Who knows what to think, but I would like to hear more.

Anyways, I don't suppose it matters. Most of us agree that she's a talented person and her show was amazingly ground-breaking, which was in part thanks to her voice. The only issue is how she goes about expressing her insecurities and hurt... Surely all that money could have gotten her a decent counsellor by now? One where she learned to truly let go of her ego, and with it the pain she carries around?

*Sigh* On to other subjects...

Carson said...

I go away for one day and all hell breaks loose!

I read her rebuttal (I'd already read her original article and Ken's first post). As a TV writer and a woman, I bristled at the idea that just because I read Ken's blog and add comments I loathe members of my own gender. She is one angry bitter woman with a tentative grasp on reality.

Ken's approach is the correct one here. It is very clear that while she makes it easy for people to dislike her - Roseanne is obviously still very messed up emotionally and mentally and deserves our sympathies rather than our vitriol. She can scream into the void all she wants - but I hope she finds a better psychiatrist who can help her find peace.

KXB said...

It NEVER fails to amaze me how many (so-called) "liberal" performers such as Rosanne Barr-Sinister (as well as Sandra Bernhard, Chevy Chase, Janeane Garofalo, Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Kathy Griffin et al) are such miserable human beings toward everyone and everything around them, esp. when their popularity evaporates, in the case of Ms. Barr (that's the name she goes by now, right?)...

Johnny Walker said...

It never fails to amaze me how everything in America eventually gets turned into a partisan issue.

Rob said...

I read the Roseanne article a few weeks ago when someone posted it to Facebook and several comments were posted in support of Roseanne's comments about the industry. I remember thinking, "I wonder what Ken thinks about this."

I would suggest that if Roseanne thinks her life in show business was bad to take her behavior into the "real" world and see how long she lasts. There is a difference between being a strong woman and a horses ass.

Truthfully, I watched Roseanne occasionally and laughed. But I always felt like it was a great sitcom with a lousy anchor. Roseanne looked good because she was surrounded by talent, not because she was talented.

Her article and comments to Ken make it clear that Roseanne is suffering from some serious mental health issues, both admitting and then glossing over her own real problems.

Ken's resume speaks for itself. I'm hard pressed to think of any writer who put in so much time and so many genuine classic shows that people enjoy decades later.

Sorry, Rosie, but sometimes the truth hurts. People don't hate you because you're a powerful woman in an industry that fears them. They hate you because you became an evil troll when you got your fame.

Rob said...

Regarding sexism, there seems to be an argument that being a complete asshole is okay for a man, not okay for a woman.

Having worked for and with people in power of both genders who behaved this way, I can state with certainty that both were hated equally by the people that worked with them and under them. Perhaps the view from the top of this type of behavior is different, but when you work directly a person who treats you terribly, gender is quite irrelevant.

I also would note that while Ken took the time to line out where he thinks Roseanne's argument falls apart, Roseanne just dismisses Ken's out of hand. This is common behavior when you know that you can't refute points. I think Roseanne knows Ken was right on, but her personality and psych issues won't allow her to admit it.

Honestly, it's tough to feel too sorry for Roseanne. At some point you have to accept responsibility for the things you do in life, not constantly blame them on others. Sometimes if everyone creates issues for you, the issue winds up being you.

Anonymous said...

Wow I stay away for a few days and all heck breaks loose. I hate it when women use the sexism card when it doesn't apply. It muddies the waters and makes credibility a bit harder for the rest of us. Ken has the humility that comes from a truly creative and talented person. However I do respect Roseanne, but she seems to project. I think she has had to deal with an enormous amount of pain. She is certainly more accomplished than I am. But hatred like that eats you up inside. I like to see people like her able to enjoy their success. Ken is letting us into his world without a personal agenda, I think. I like that.Julie Burlington Iowa

Wojciehowicz said...

I have to take exception to Ms. Schiff. Baseball is not sexist at all. I, a man, never watch, and my mother-in-law watches more baseball than any ten men combined.

Other than that, great rebuttals from all. I too feel bad for Roseanne but as all creative types know, there is usually a lot closer swerving towards crazy land than the majority of people. Sometimes, you can get lost there and not be able to find your way back easily, nor really want to because it is more comfortable to do and say whatever you like than worry about convention.

I wish Roseanne, Ken, and everyone they've worked with all the best. No one is perfect, and sometimes, it's more comfortable to run in the other direction. Not necessarily profitable or constructive, but easily understood. The median world can be very intimidating and upsetting. It's certainly not as forgiving as we could make it.

Carson said...

Okay, I got bored today... well, actually I was procrastinating (my third favorite thing to do, after eating cake and naps) and went on the Roseanne blog again to see if she responded to the several people who spoke about the Ken/Roseanne magilla - since I noticed that she does respond to her fans on there. It seems the comments from people who provided rational discussion (i.e.: didn't vilify Ken, Robin Schiff, Linda Teverbaugh or Laurie Gelman were deleted completely by Roseanne. I guess non-sychophants need not apply. How sad for her.

LA Nuts book (Joe Dungan) said...

Roseanne claims her show business success contributed to her mental instability back then. I wonder what her excuse is nowadays?

Anonymous said...

Yea, contributed to her mental instability but also to the vast luxurious lifestyle she is able to now enjoy, which has just made her a lunatic. If you read the comment sections of her own blogs she is just out of control. Last night for example she had a soldier comment REALLY laying into her and saying shit like "Just funny that while there's wars being fought and women and children wondering the deserts of Africa, the only thing this magazine could find to write on is how an actress was denied her complimentary smoke salmon pizza over 20 years ago. Let the world mourn for her, get real with the world" (it was actually hilarious to read) but then she replies "why don't you shut your filthy uneducated lying mouth. Couldn't you get a real job?" --- Then like 30 mins after her reply she deletes both her comment as well as his. But I mean really?!? WOW, who the fuck tells a US soldier to get a real job! Despite what they have to say, which seemed pretty logical, your going to reply with a response of putting down the entire armed forces! She truly is a bitch!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Roseanne deleted my comments, which were well reasoned, as well.

The fact is that the woman is nuts, and her psychotic reactions to Ken and those who have commented are a pretty good indication that all of the stories about her are true. She's not a victim of sexism or hatred of talent, but from her own warped mind that only processes that she's been attacked and never processes that she can do any wrong.

She's a classic borderline personality.

Anonymous said...

This is very true, its sad how much of a mental case she is. If you search on her blog, she has wrote about some crazy shit too within just this last year! Everything from cussing out President Regan to all these big brother mind control conspiracy theories.
She's more then just borderline personality, because obviously she has a sense of paranoia and in a disillusioned state of her own little world so my guess is as well as borderline personality she also has multiple personalities and schizophrenia.

Buttermilk Sky said...

An asshat is worn on a butthead.

"Gypsy" derives from the mistaken belief that the Roma people originated in Egypt.

I trust this is helpful.