Monday, May 23, 2011

Roseanne's latest insane rant

Roseanne Barr (or Arnold or whatever she calls herself these days) recently wrote an article for New York Magazine. You can read it here. In the article she states “her” side of the story. Here’s my reaction:

But first, some disclaimers:

I greatly admire her show, ROSEANNE. It truly was one of the few groundbreaking sitcoms.

And much of the credit goes to her. She was the creative voice.

I have never personally worked for or with her. So my observations come from an outsider, albeit an outsider who has been in the trenches for over thirty years.

I've met Matt Williams only a couple of times, but only briefly.   So it's not like we're BFF.

What else? Let’s see. She hasn’t sold guns to terrorists. To my knowledge.



In the article, she attempts to portray herself as a victim and a martyr. She is neither. She is an enormously talented woman who has enough psychological problems to keep the industry in business for the next two hundred years. I’ve always believed that fame and money and power just make you more of what you really are. And if that’s the case, than Roseanne is a monster. No amount of spinning on her part is going to change that. No amount of “woe is me”, “no one understands me”, “I’m the only one who cares” laments are going to change the fact that she treated people like shit. Routinely. Constantly. Knowingly.

For that alone, I have no use for her.
Let’s break down the article, shall we? She is mortally wounded upon learning that she didn’t get creator credit for her series. Okay, there may be some injustice there, but that’s more the fault of her handlers, not the writer, Matt Williams. And when she claims he stole her life, uh, that’s not entirely true. If he had taken all her ideas, written a script, told the press it was his life story, and then hired Camryn Manheim to star in the show, then yes, I’d say we have a major case of identity theft. But everyone KNOWS the show is based on Roseanne and her material. Matt even said as much in articles back then. The name of the fucking show is ROSEANNE for Chrissakes! All she really is being gypped out of is royalties. And I think she more than made up for that in her salary and ownership position.

And it takes skill and experience to turn fragments of a stand-up routine into a cohesive television series.  Matt Williams does deserve some recognition.    He was not just the proverbial mouse on the elephant.   

Yet, it’s this betrayal that she uses to justify making everyone’s life a living hell. The tone of a set is established by its star. When the star begins reading THE ART OF WAR and keeps a list of who she’ll fire, she’s in a very real sense creating a poisonous atmosphere.

Her contempt for writers is so deep-seated that she can’t even hide it in the article. This what she says, and I quote:

Male writers have zero interest in being nice to women, including their own assistants, few of whom are ever promoted to the rank of “writer,” even though they do all the work while the guys sit on their asses taking the credit.

Oh really? As a male writer I find that insulting. As a male I find that insulting. And so misguided and ridiculous that it doesn’t even warrant a rebuttal.

I love how she portrays Matt Williams as such an ogre and mentions that he went on to create HOME IMPROVEMENT for Tim Allen and neglects to add that Tim Allen never had the same issues with Matt that she did. Matt & Tim seemed to get along just peachy. Later she references Chuck Lorre and how he has since hired most of her crew and supporting actors. If he were so terrible why would they agree to work for him again? He’s not the only producer in town (although it seems like it). How many of those same crew people would ever consent to work for her again? Three?  Maybe.  If their kids were being held for ransom.  And even then, I don't know that all three would comply. 

Roseanne makes a big issue over a particular punch line that she found offensive. And according to her, Matt dug in and there was an ugly standoff. I agree with her that the line was bad and needed to be replaced. But I guarantee that if she weren’t so relentlessly combative, the showrunner (ANY showrunner) would have been happy to find another joke. In this case, it wasn’t just a joke, it was the  “line” in the sand. I’ve had actors object to lines and there’s never been a problem. I’m never going to force an actor to say something he hates. But I also expect the actor to present his objection is a respectful way. Things on that set would have been different if the book Roseanne read was THE ART OF COLLABORATION.

So she fires everyone and we’re supposed to cheer. The next wave of writers was (as she says) “old guys”. One of them, Jeff Harris, took out a full-page ad in the trades when he decided to quit – an open letter to the cast and crew that said, "My wife and I have decided to share a vacation in the peace and quiet of Beirut.”

Next she hires comics and assistants to write her show. Translation: people she can control. So began the revolving door. And how about this for humiliation? Since there was so much turnover in the writing staff and she had no desire to learn anyone's names, she made them each wear numbers around their necks during runthroughs.

She concludes the article by saying she’s not bitter. (Oh really???)  She takes comfort in being such a champion for integrity, dignity, and women’s rights. Sure wish I had a picture of her women writers during runthrough wearing numbers around their necks.

I know this may seem like Ken Levine Reaction to Actors Week but tomorrow I focus on Ashton Kutcher, Charlie Sheen and the whole TWO AND A HALF MEN situation. Hey, the stories just happened to come along at the same time. Hopefully Katherine Heigl won't misbehave in the next 48 hours and I can move on to other things.


Good Dog said...

Reading the article I felt terribly sorry for her. There were actually tears in my eyes when it got the point that she couldn't get a table at the last minute and was denied the smoked salmon pizza... Oh no, wait... those were tears of laughter.

Regarding the whole Matt Williams issue, as I was reading the article it felt like she would be equally pissed off with a celebrity chef simply because she had the separate ingredients to their signature dish first.

Naz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Naz said...

Typo on previous post.

Hopefully Roseanne will go back to her nut farm where she belongs.

Mike Botula said...

Ken, I understand these moments. But, step aside. Take a deep breath, and move onto something else. Don't waste your temper or your time on this. Take another deep breath. Move on.

15-Seconds said...

"Whoa is me"?

Does that mean she has lost her giddyup?

Steve Zeoli said...

Why is she responding now? Has this somehow been in the news, or has Roseanne just now realized she's a hasbeen?

*tarazza said...

Interesting. I read her article last week and was thinking to myself the entire time that I'd love to hear the other side of the story. Or at the very least, another person's perspective on the whole thing. Good blog!!

William C Bonner said...

You used the phrase “whoa is me” and I was wondering if that was an intentional joke. (as opposed to “woe is me”)

Whoa meaning a command to stop, while woe being an affliction.

Howard Hoffman said...

Ssshhhhh! You know Ken's famous temper. He'll fire all of us and get commenters who wear numbers around their necks.

Great response, Ken. The fact that this creative genius never had another show even 1/10th as successful since ROSEANNE says it all.

julian said...

i read her article yesterday, and have to admit: early on in my career i had to learn how to work well with others (in as much as that is possible), which meant changing all attitudes that were anywhere near hers. i give her points for voluntarily describing her own behaviour; i just can't help wondering what john goodman feels about all this.

Anonymous said...

I think there are parties at fault on both sides and that R admits in the article to her mental instability. You say yourself that u havent worked with her and even though you and I both know people who suffered under her crazy, I don't agree with you coming down on her so fully here. You weren't there. Also, she went by Roseanne Arnold for like 5 seconds and that 'whatever she goes by now' opening line was overused 10 yrs ago let alone now.

Mac said...

Amen. Roseanne will spend her remaining days on this planet truly believing she was the victim of some oppressive male agenda.
Well now she can sit and figure it out on the nut farm.
Or complain that her nut-pickers never seem to last longer than a week. No doubt she'll realize it was all a plot by the women-hating male hierarchy who are trying to steal her nuts.

Michael said...

I wonder whether Roseanne remembers the sequence where she brought in her boyfriend/husband as a cast member and he wound up on a UFO? I always thought that was truly groundbreaking and feminist. Or does anybody remember how she completely destroyed the show in the final season with the "novel" sequence.

It's a shame because the show was indeed groundbreaking and innovative. But I also found it interesting that the show's greatest moments, in my opinion, weren't so much ROSEANNE as, for example, the episode about her sister being an abuse victim, or the breaking of the fourth wall in the credits.

John Leader Alfenito said...

I liked the "Whoa is me" typo. You should have let it stand.
It's a perfect comment on Roseanne's "horse's ass" persona.
You're such a comedy genius, your subconscious is feeding you one-liners.

Joshua James said...

Heheheh ...

Interestingly enough, she admits she has mental problems, admits they were terrible mental problems back then, but at the same time, anything that was going wrong was always someone else's fault.

I dug the show, though, I really did. But seems like she burnt a whole lotta bridges that didn't even need to be on fire, just from this article alone ...

Anonymous said...

Why is John Rocker classified as racist for referring to Beirut, but not this writer?

Matt said...

It must be frustrating to Roseanne to, after all these years, *finally* get that off her chest only to come off sounding even crazier that what was being reported at the time.


Carson said...

I read the article last week and basically figured that she has not progressed one iota professionally or psychologically since her show first aired. Her contempt for writers - all writers - is palpable (and I'm a woman). As a comedian I would think she would understand that writers rooms need to be a place where any joke can be said aloud, no matter how distasteful. She has a foul mouth and trash-talked men in her stand-up routines, so why should the writers be censored in the one place where they should be free to create and be funny?

I also find it strange that she thought the writing was terrible the first season, yet KNEW they were going to be #1 in the ratings by season's end. How does that happen? Does she think that all she had to do was be on screen and her mere presence will transcend the alleged dreck the writers were putting out?

The first season is my favorite season, even though her acting was terrible. Her supporting cast members (including the kids) were great and the writing was funny.

I agree Ken, Roseanne probably never expressed her desire for creator credit (and what that entails), or her agent didn't give a crap and didn't care. I think it's a combo of both. How sad for her to not benefit from the decades of therapy she's received. She still paints herself a victim - even when she was victimizing others. No wonder she's hardly worked in the past 14 years.

Anonymous said...

Great response piece. Not enough defense of writers these days. Especially in TV which is ironically run by writers. Go figure.

But I hope your readership does not include gypsies.

Now they are going to write a piece in New York Magazine.

mp said...

If you believe John Rocker was deemed a racist/jacka** just for the single statement of equating Queens with Beirut as opposed to the entirety of his rant, (implying his fellow passengers on the #7 train were homosexuals with AIDS, 20-year old moms, and ex-cons; followed up with xenophobic comments about the languages of Times Square) I am guessing you didn't hear or read the whole quote. Or, alternatively you are an idiot...or, quite possibly, you are John Rocker.

-bee said...

I loved "Roseanne". I remember turning in the first season and thinking it was just a bunch of annoying people shouting at each other. Then a year or two later I tuned into an episode where Roseanne and her fellow workers were being interrogated about stealing food from the stock room (they were) and being amazed that something so morally complex was being presented in a situation comedy.

For me, these impressions back up Roseanne's claim that she had to wrest control of her show from people without the vision to bring her show to life.

In any event, I am grateful to have been tipped off in this blog about the article - which I found fascinating - sort of like a great fiction story with an unreliable narrator. I agree she presents a false 'warts and all' portrayal of herself - while there is a sketchy 'recognition' that she has wronged others but she does not seem to take any genuine responsibility for it and is focused more on the wrongs done to her. I feel pretty sure she would be a HORRIBLE person to work for.

But the sense of outrage at Roseanne that I'm seeing here saddens me. Why does she have to be either a hero OR a villain? Sure, I am annoyed by her hunger to be perceived as a 'goddess' - but if you get past that defensive grandiosity I DO think there is a LOT of truth within her article. I DO believe one of her basic points, which is that network TV is run by people who work for others who despise the working class.

And threading the needle here, Ken, you want Roseanne to give due credit to Matt Williams, but if he treated her badly and took part in (or masterminded) an 'insurrection' to kick her off her own show, isn't it someone understandable that she lacks the proper perspective, even after all these years?

As someone who I presume still wants to work in showbiz, I would never expect you, Ken, to be so reckless as to burn bridges with people who could still give you a job, but there is a part of me which found Roseanne's rants fascinating, and in many ways courageous.

David said...

When does the stand-up ever get "created by" credit? Everybody Loves Raymond has Phil Rosenthal as creator, with a "based on the stand-up of Ray Romano." I feel this is standard. Or does every stand-up comedian have a crappy agent?

WV: "ackulin" - Admiral Ackbar endorsed pain medication.

Cathy S. said...

As soon as I read this last week I thought of you and wondered what you would think. And now I know, and it's pretty much what I thought. I loved Roseanne, at least in the early years. Great show, great cast. But I remember the backstage storms going on even then. The fact that she's still holding onto this and still nasty about it says a lot about her, none of it good. Thanks for weighing in.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

I can clearly see the issues going on with Roseanne herself: The self-victimizing, the power-trips, the contempt for writers, plus many others. She's definitely burned some bridges.

But I can't say Matt Williams comes across innocently either. He could have handled all of those issues a little better. I often get the impression that there used to be a more sexist attitude back then (and I'm definitely not a feminist).

I find it ironic she gave Joss Whedon his first writing gig. Buffy was definitely feminist, but I can recall some episodes with clear moments of sexism.

I still feel somewhat sorry for Roseanne though. Sometimes, I can see her point, even if she takes it a bit too far at times.

I gotta admit I laughed at the smoked salmon pizza bit. Maybe it's because I find that fish rarely works with pizza for me.

ben said...

Ken, or Kenneth, or Kenny-boy, or whatever you call yourself these days, did you not see the byline for the article? It says "Roseanne Barr". So you could have spared yourself the snippy "whatever she calls herself these days" and maybe avoided taking the low road from your very first sentence. She calls herself Roseanne Barr. Is that a problem for you?

GRayR said...

Nice take on Roseanne. But...

I could not stand her or the show. It makes me cringe to think about her. IMHO she is not a comic, an actor, a writer, or even a "human being"

I could never understand how her show got on, stayed on, and is still in syndication.

Her screeching "ball grabbing" singing of the national anthem, seems to me to be the epitome of her comedy. Has been -- never was.

Sorry to rant so, she just chaps my A**.

Sally creeping down the alley said...

Roseanne recently back-off (sorta anyway) of claims she was molested by a family member...

Her manic-depressive behavior is pretty typical of someone who has been molested. the anger, the aggressiveness, the domination of others followed by insecurity, etc.

It's clear whatever therapy she's gone through hasn't helped.

Ronan said...

Whatever she calls herself? Wow. I hope i grow up to be a mature comedy writer just like you. 1)You complement her on being a creative voice, but you NEVER asked what possibly could have stopped that creativity from happening, and "Roseanne" from being so groundbreaking (ah-em possibly someone like Matt making it generic shite). 2)SO much of the blogpost could have been backed up by evidence (ie Matt was not the mouse on the elphant), but why believe you if you don't have evidence. Don't get insulted about her comment of male writers' sexism, PROVE OTHERWISE! 3)If Israel and Palestine got on, they could build a 2nd holy land out of Matchsticks. But, like Matt and Roseanne BOTH SIDES IN THE CONFRONTATION WERE COMBATIVE, and to say without investigation otherwise is ignorant propaganda. 4) You wish you knew what is was like for the women writers? FUCKING ASK THEM, which i'm sure you will.

RCP said...

One thing about Roseanne - she knows how to push buttons. I remember how her short-lived talk show was moved to 2 a.m. during its final weeks.

I think Roseanne is a very intelligent and funny individual, but has always come from a defensive place - which puts others on the defensive. Justified? It may well be. But it can also make people into enemies who aren't - at least initially. No doubt there are two sides to this story, with enough blame and credit both ways.

Reading Roseanne's article, I wondered what Susan Harris's (Golden Girls) experience was like being in a similar position at around the same time.

Nat G said...

Parts of the article that I was most amused by:

1) her list of people she planned to fire once the show reached number 1... "Oh no, you've helped make my show number 1, and now you must be punished."

2) The description of being given preferred treatment at restaurants as "using" her.

3) Claiming credit for Chuck Lorre's work, while noting that she fired him. If I'd fired someone who went on to create hit after hit, I might not assume that firing was the same thing. As for her claiming she copied him, it took me along time to figure out what she meant. I couldn't see any of Roseanne in the excellent "Dharma and Greg", in the huge hit "Two and a Half Men", or in the quite-good-at-its-best "Big Bang Theory" (although he used a few actors from that show - is everything George Clooney does due to her as well?) I had to get to his latest, "Mike and Molly", to realize she probably wanted credit for a cast that's led by two overweight folks, as if no one overweight had ever worked on a sitcom before.

There is actually much Roseanne deserves credit for, but she makes you want to avoid that by insisting that no one else can be credited with anything.

Shandy said...

I agree with Eduardo and especially -bee that Roseanne isn't a perfect person, and she isn't necessarily the villain in this story, as you present her to be.

But let me go one step further and say that your attitude disgusts me. "Relentlessly combative"? She should be reading 'The Art of Collaboration' instead of 'The Art of War'? It's this kind of institutionalized, 'tone argument' bullshit that is most damaging to feminism and any other kind of rights-championing. By your reasoning, Roseanne was being too angry, or too hateful, too hysterical, too mean, not calm enough, not nice enough, 'insane', etc. She should have just played nice, and then magically everything in her career would have gone spiffingly for her, la dee dah.

Well, let me tell you something as a woman in a patriarchal, male-dominated society. Your little argument falls pretty flat. Your "As a male writer I find that insulting" is a textbook example of tone-argument, privileged b.s., and it shows that you understand NOTHING of what it's like to be marginalized in a manner such as Roseanne was, and plenty of other women still are. When you're a woman in a male-dominated environment, it can seem like you're screaming and screaming, and not only does no one listen to you, but they slam the door in your face. "Oh, she's just a crazy woman." "We'll listen to you when you calm down." "Ask me again when you're off the rag." When you ask and ask politely to be treated with respect and nothing happens, can you blame someone for being angry? For reacting emotionally? Would you ask the Black Panthers to cool down?

No. No, you wouldn't. And if you step on somebody's foot and they ask you to get off, you don't come back and say, "ask nicely", you get the hell off.

Roseanne may not be perfect, but at least she's honest. I have immense respect for her for that. And if you took a step back or two and acknowledged your position of immense privilege here, maybe I could respect you, too.

Sherri said...

We've heard that Roseanne was impossible to work with, ditto with Cybill Shepherd,and Brett Butler. Is there a case of a woman-created sitcom where the woman wasn't impossible to work with? Or is that by definition impossible?

I'm not doubting that Roseanne was difficult to work with, but it seems that women with strong personalities get the reputation of being crazy and impossible much more quickly.

Jon88 said...

Thanks for this, Ken. I only managed to get as far as where she says alcohol is not a drug before I gave up on the article. Now I know what I missed. ("Was spared from" is better than "missed" here.)

JM in San Diego said...

I've never been a professional joke writer but I frequently have funny things occur to me, usually inspired by current events. If Rosanne is so creative, what stopped her from creating plot outlines for each of the Connor family's 22 minute episodes? From such outlines I would expect some funny things to occur to her writers. Instead, she seemed to chart a course for Combat Island.

Brigadude said...


Re: your line...

"Roseanne may not be perfect, but at least she's honest. I have immense respect for her for that."

As an observer of that whole "event" I can promise you that Roseanne's account is far from honest. You might want to adjust your respect just a bit.

joe said...

The only thing I find more headspinning than Roseanne's piece is the exegetical contortions in which her defenders engage.


Shandy said...


Regardless of what Roseanne may or may not have done, it's Ken's attitude that I've taken issue with. You may have been a bystander to Roseanne, but I have been a bystander every day of my life to both willful and culturally ingrained sexism.

By Ken Levine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
By Ken Levine said...

For you readers disagreeing with me, thank you to those who left your names -- I appreciate your comments even if they're critical -- and for those who just posted as Anonymous, I didn't even read your comments. I could care less what you have to say.

To the reader who asked if there are any women stars in sitcoms who are not monsters, there are MANY. This is by no means a complete list but just off the very top of my head -- Nancy Travis, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Courtney Cox, Patty Heaton, Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston, Jenna Elfmann, Megyn Price, Wendie Malick, Betty White, Jane Leeves, Valerie Bertinelli,Lara San Giacomo,... and on and on.

This is a lively debate. Keep it going. Just leave your name. Thanks.

l.a.guy said...

I'm not going to read the article but I'll share one story of what a nice person she is... years ago I was working on a television show for Amensty International. Since it was Amnesty International they had a pretty good list of celebs and musical acts, so it wasn't as if it centered around one person.

Roseanne was to appear sometime during the second half of the show. Fortunately (or unfortunately) it wasn't live and shortly after the show starts taping she decides she doesn't want to stick around for her scheduled appearance and says she's going to walk if they don't shoot her part immediately. The producers didn't have much choice so everything was put on hold in order to accommodate Roseanne. It may not sound like a big deal, but swapping items around in a show like that is a real pain in the ass. Nice lady.

Incidentally I knew someone on the Ellen DeGeneres show and by the second season her nick name among some of the cast and crew was "Rose-Ellen".

Unknown said...

While I loathe to defend Roseanne, your argument of "...Tim Allen never had the same issues with Matt that she did. Matt & Tim seemed to get along just peachy." makes her case much more than yours.

Roseanne believes these problems arose out of a male-dominated industry's inability to handle a woman as tough as itself.

Roseanne might say: Of course Matt and Tim got along. They're both men.

Michael Zand said...

Shandy your angry polemic directed at Ken is misguided. True, Roseanne’s show was groundbreaking in depicting working class lives but she’s about as much of a feminist icon as Sarah Palin. I’m sure she had a horrible childhood and still carries the scars but doesn’t change the fact that she was a toxic, hateful, self-loathing cunt. Most serial killers were also victimized as children but they don’t get a pass when they murder people as grown ups.
I know second hand what it was like on that set. Before we transitioned into a writing team, my wife, Terri and I, were both actors. As one of her last gigs, Terri had a guest shot on The Roseanne show. Her description of the place was like being in a hostage crises. She also came out with a newfound respect for Tom Arnold. (Just the fact that he was fucking Roseanne makes him a braver man than I ever was) Terri told me that Tom was the only person protecting the writers and was buffer between his hell-bitch wife and the poor bastards in the writing room. First off, none of the writers were allowed on the set, EVER. She had them all banned. So the script and every rewrite was sent down and rehearsed without the writers ever having a chance to see it on its feet. As I’m sure Ken will attest, that is worst thing to do a comedy writer, make him work deaf and blind. Then, when the rewrites were sent down she’d throw a tantrum and start cussing and screaming that she “wasn’t gonna do this shit!” Terri, told me it was Tom Arnold who wrangled her, calmed her down and convinced her to at least TRY material before she shat all over it. The few times Terri actually saw the some of the writers they looked as if they’d all been through a meat grinder.
After season one, Rosanne had ALL the power on that show and called ALL the shots. Per her own account she hired and fired writers and if she wanted anybody gone, they were. Yet, she still portrays herself as a victim of the “male dominated corporate establishment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once she got rid of Matt Williams, she could have created a nurturing and safe environment and still have been in total control. (See Tina Fey) Instead, she brutalized everyone around her. That, Shandy, is not how a real feminist behaves.

joe said...

Roseanne might say: Of course Matt and Tim got along. They're both men.

Exactly. Because it is a very poorly kept secret that all men get along famously with each other.

The jig is up, fellas.

Unknown said...

Joe, just so we're clear, I don't believe Roseanne was right, at all, I just don't think that particular point carries much weight for Ken's argument.

Sherri said...

To the reader who asked if there are any women stars in sitcoms who are not monsters, there are MANY. This is by no means a complete list but just off the very top of my head -- Nancy Travis, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Courtney Cox, Patty Heaton, Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston, Jenna Elfmann, Megyn Price, Wendie Malick, Betty White, Jane Leeves, Valerie Bertinelli,Lara San Giacomo,... and on and on.

Only a couple of the actresses on that list actually created or were the center of the sitcom. That was really my question: when women are in charge, are they more likely to be regarded as crazy monsters? Tina Fey seems to be the major counterexample.

I worked in a male-dominated field. I know what it's like to be regarded as a bitch if you raise your voice. It seems like we hear more stories about women in charge who are crazy monsters than we do about men. I can't help but think that maybe part of what's going on is that what's acceptable from a male star gets a female star called a cunt and a bitch.

Jenna said...

Roseanne might say: Of course Matt and Tim got along. They're both men.

Exactly. Because it is a very poorly kept secret that all men get along famously with each other

I don't think the point is that all men get along. I think the point is if a man is having trouble working with or taking input from a woman because she's a woman, those problems aren't going to come up when that man is working with another man. The fact that Matt got along with Tim doesn't really deflate Roseanne's arguement.

Also, while I don't work in Hollywood, I do work as an engineer and I've yet to hear about a woman either being promoted or lateralled to a new position without hearing from my male co-workers about how she is a bitch, unqualified, or promoted only because she is a woman. Bonus points if she is unmarried so she can be called a dyke. In fact, it seems like everyone can tell me stories to back these claims up. Yet, somehow, I never experience these terrible things.

Roseanne may be just as horrible as many people claim. But as a result of my own experiences, I tend to take rumors of a woman's bitchitude with a huge grain of salt.

cshel said...

I've always felt sort of neutral about Roseanne and her show - sometimes I found her amusing, but I didn't watch her show very often because it just wasn't my personal cup of tea.

I found her article amusing, but didn't assume it to be true. I don't know, I wasn't there. There are two sides to every story. And I remember there were a lot of bad stories floating around about her back then.

But nobody can honestly deny that HW isn't somewhat sexist (more so back then), for a myriad of reasons, intentional or not, and that it's much harder for women. And it's much more common for women to get labeled as difficult bitches for things that men routinely get away with.

I feel sorry for all of the nice, normal, decent human beings of both genders in HW that have to deal with the egotistic, crazy ass, mean ones.

D. McEwan said...

"Mac said...
Or complain that her nut-pickers never seem to last longer than a week. No doubt she'll realize it was all a plot by the women-hating male hierarchy who are trying to steal her nuts."

Mac, great line. Roseanne will be firing you shortly.

"-bee said...
I would never expect you, Ken, to be so reckless as to burn bridges with people who could still give you a job."

You think Ken might, at some future point, want to pick Roseanne's nuts? -bee, no one in their right mind wants to work for Roseanne, in the unlikely event that she ever makes a comeback.

l.a. guy, I was present for the taping of Edna Time, the Dame Edna Fox talk show pilot in 1993, when Roseanne and Tom Arnold were two of the guests. Not the only guests. Cesar Romero was on it (his last-ever performance), as well as Luke Perry, Teri Garr, Patrick Stewart, Cliff DeYoung, and Kathy Ireland. (whose appearance was entirely cut out, as Ireland was painfully not-funny. Yes, I know Fox cut the show in half, but I have the full-length version broadcast in Canada - in which I can be clearly seen several times - and Ireland was entirely cut from that also.)

Roseanne, Tom, and Edna were to sing the finale number together. ("You're Not Woman Enough to Take My Man" as they fought over Tom) Roseanne pulled the same stunt, insisting that the finale be shot halfway through the show, so they could leave early. They were accommodated, and it created all sorts of logistical and continuity problems. All the other performers were there to the very end. Also still there at the end were Miriam Margoyles and Julian Sands, who were not on the show at all, just, like me, happy to be around Barry Humphries.

In their interview segment, they discussed Tom's infertility problems and sperm count, and also the restaurant they were building in Iowa. After they'd thrown the production into chaos and left, Dame Edna told the audience (off-the-air and not-on-tape) "I wouldn't want to eat at a restaurant run by a person so obssessed with their sperm. I certainly wouldn't trust the Bouillabaisse."

(More below)

D. McEwan said...

(Pt 2)

When I read the article last week, the first thing that made me go "Hmmm," was when Roseanne said she didn't consider alcohol a drug. Oops. The only people I've ever heard say that were alcoholics, and I've lived with a few.

But it was when I hit the first part Ken excerpted that I came to a full halt. Two things struck me as ridiculous there: first the idea that assistants get promoted to writers. What? You become a writer by writing something someone buys. When a writer leaves, you don't promote the secretary to the job. If Donald Trump died (Sorry. I got lost in bliss contemplating the idea of a dead Trump), his personal assistant wouldn't take over his job or start hosting The Apprentice. When Nixon quit the presidency, Rosemary Woods didn't become President.

Secondly, of course, the absurd idea that writer's assistants "do all the work." Wha...? Does she, who insists on her writing credits at length, not understand what a writer does? She seems to confuse writing with typing.

Sorry she couldn't get her salmon pizza. I cant afford to eat there myself, but then, even if I did, I don't want fish on my pizza! Ew.

The TV show Roseanne was such a great show that it was a deserved huge success despite the fact that it had a lead that could not act at all. (Even Brett Butler, the true Star From Hell, could at least act.) Of course, the last season is removed from that compliment for the show. That last season, it suddenly became one of the worst shows on TV. I have seen every episode of Roseanne, and I have never see a show go to hell that badly at the end. Paul Rudnick, writing as "Libby Gelman-Waxner" in Premiere Magazine during the final season, said: "I know that God is everywhere, except for the set of Roseanne this year."

The show's success and excellence was due to a collaboration between many people, with Roseanne herself as the fountainhead, but its hideous decomposition on the air was all her solo doing.

D. McEwan said...

PS. Don't think I didn't notice slipping Patricia Heaton into that list of non-monsters. A woman who campaigns against stem cell research, who would have preferred Christopher Reeve remain in his wheelchair than allow research that could lead to a cure for his condition and many others, who works hard to get evil people elected, who - well you know my litany of complaints against her - fits my description of a monster. I saw her whiny piece in the press last week about how she says that she's lost roles due to her politics. While I would like to believe that, if I'm not mistaken, she's currently starring in her second hit series. Oh, whoa is she. (and I meant whoa, not woe.)

D. McEwan said...

"Sherri said...
I can't help but think that maybe part of what's going on is that what's acceptable from a male star gets a female star called a cunt and a bitch."

So you haven't seen a single word in the last five months about a guy named Charlie Sheen?

Jenna said...

So you haven't seen a single word in the last five months about a guy named Charlie Sheen?

No one is saying every gets away with bad behavior, while every woman gets called out on it. More, that it seems like there is a much lower tolerance for female bad behavior than male. And that what is deemed bitchlike in a woman is sometimes considered "take-charge" or "commanding" or simply the less judgemental "control freak" when a guy does it.

The fact that you can name one guy who is considered an ass, doesn't really answer that point.

Tom Mason said...

Joss Whedon on his time writing for "Roseanne":

"From Barr's backstage tirades, Whedon says he learned how not to manage people. He left Roseanne as soon as he sold his first screenplay, Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Anonymous said...

>>Don't think I didn't notice slipping Patricia Heaton into that list of non-monsters. A woman who campaigns against stem cell research, who would have preferred Christopher Reeve remain in his wheelchair than allow research that could lead to a cure for his condition and many others, who works hard to get evil people elected, who - well you know my litany of complaints against her - fits my description of a monster.<<

Patricia Heaton isn't a monster; you are, you nasty, evil intolerant fuckwit. People like you absolutely disgust me.

Dan in Missouri said...

I'm just going to repeat what others have said, perhaps using different words.
There are many fine comics; few of them can turn their stand up act into a sustained series or even a single movie. Most need a producer and/or write to wrangle the material.
Barr's show was very good.
Her post sitcome success points to the fact that she needs a talented support team.


Michael Zand said...


I don't agree that female tv stars are judged more harshly. In Rosanne's case, an asshole is asshole, is an asshole. You don't have to stop at Charlie Sheen. The list of male stars on tv shows who fit the bill include Erik Estrada, Chad Everett, Lee Majors, Robert Blake etc... Name me one female tv star labled a bitch who you feel got a raw deal. We all know about Brett Butler and Cybill Shepard. Lucy was scary but she was mostly fair and all about the work. If you go by the numbers there are a lot more male tv stars with reputations as assholes than women.

Mike Schryver said...

Anonymous said to D. McEwan:
"you nasty, evil [followed by namecalling]"

So, Mr. McEwan lays out his case rationally, point by point, for why Ms. Heaton could be called a monster.
Anonymous posits no defense of Ms. Heaton, and proceeds to call Mr. McEwan a bunch of names.

And Anonymous thinks this is going to convince anyone?

selection7 said...

When agenda pushers defending people like Roseanne show such poor character judgement, sense of priorities and strong bias, it makes people like me who like to consider both sides learn to take their words with a grain of salt, which is a shame. Intelligent, secure women are angry at the way some women (and occasionally men) have turned feminism into a dirty word.

Unfortunately for some, their confimation bias is so strong that, in this case, anything short of Roseanne being a serial killer (reference to Michael Zand's post) is an opportunity to declare sexism and judge others accordingly. That's not helping like you think it is.

selection7 said...

Ken, you're in a tricky situation. From the perspective of you being a well-followed blogger, if you're going to brazenly aim your sights at her (that is, with the same kind of vitriol that Roseanne so freely doles out), it's reasonable to suggest you be held to a higher standard of responsibility towards laying out the evidence than if you were just with your wife or friends.

Having said that, you're an entertainment writer. You've establlished that with this blog, we all know it, and you've set precedent by occasionally dealing other (alleged) lowlifes with equal helpings of scorn. Which is to say, just keep doing your thing, but don't be surprised when others take issue with you...pretty much just as you've done:) Thanks for your perspectives on this one. Too many things didn't add up in Roseanne's article for there not to be two sides to this story.

Breadbaker said...

I guess I had a completely different take on it, perhaps because Roseanne barely registered on my consciousness. I think I watched her show twice, liked the basic premise of a show about people struggling economically who weren't size 0, but didn't like her acting much so I never returned.

To me, it was a lot like a number of athletes who seem to need to find a grudge about everything in order to get them an edge. Kobe Bryant is a successful one (hardly born into disadvantageous circumstances). Milton Bradley is an unsuccessful one. It doesn't matter if the grudge is true; it probably isn't. This is just the mythology they put out that is intended to justify their behavior. Roseanne is no different.

Whether it's true or not, even whether Roseanne herself believes it's true, is beside the point. It's the official explanation for something that is essentially inexplicable. So while I can understand Ken getting upset when she dismisses the contribution of series creators and writers, who she picked on in the story is essentially besides the point. The point is that she is trying to create a mythology that fits with and justifies her behavior. The behavior is still there and the way the story fails to meet the case she's trying to present says something about her, but nothing about gender discrimination in show business (which is real, but not particularly relevant to Roseanne's behavior) or the acts of any of the individuals involved (which may be more or less true or false or completely misattributed, because they are all, essentially, just props in a myth).

Michael Zand said...

Selection7, you must be an academic because, even after I read your post three times, I still didn't understand it AT ALL. Your gift of obfuscation strongly suggests that you must have tenure--somewhere.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad you have a bug about "anonymous".
It's your blog, stop offering it then Ken. I don't get at all where "l.a.guy" isn't "Anonymous" or "Good Dog".
Anyone can claim to be anyone, so what is so great about having a name, other than Anonymous?

Favey Nishball said...

A couple things:

1) I am continually mystified by the Anonymous comment, particularly given Ken's admonishments on this practice.

It is not all that challenging to create a posting name so the others will read your thoughts with a soupcon more credibility.

(Full disclosure- My real name is Ajax Cassidy.)

2) It seems the more strident commenters in this thread see themselves as victims. It is always useful to point out when we are being victimized, in fact it is un-American not to. I can never figure out whether the Cult of the Victim makes me immeasurably sad or insanely happy. Just one more reason for getting up in the morning.

John said...

The New York piece seems like a rethought and edited-into-coherence version of her original screed two months ago. Since "Rosanne" is one of only three shows Viacom airs on TV Land, it's been pretty easy to follow the arc of the show just as a way to freshen up on the series, and really, once you get past about Season 4, every change she made was another step downhill, until you arrive at the final year which goes down with some of the great train-wreck final seasons of shows of all time.

Cap'n Bob said...

I loathe her and her show. That whiney voice and pig face, yuck! She stole her stand up act from Phyllis Diller. Her disrespectful rendering of the national anthem was dusgusting. Her manufactured scandals whenever contract negotiations were nigh (remember the three-way marriage?) were obvious manipulations. I can't think of many people who need to stay out of the public eye more than her.

Cap'n Bob said...

Whoops, that should be "disgusting" instead of "dusgusting." I really need to learn how to type.

RCP said...

Whew. As I read through a number of comments here that further detail Roseanne's behavior, I felt my sympathy for her (what there was of it) dwindle to zero. My initial comment about there being "two sides to the story" now seems like a breezy assessment.

Sexism in Hollywood and/or a dysfunctional background are no excuse for treating people like crap. Especially when you fancy yourself a "champion of the downtrodden."

D. McEwan said...

"Anonymous said...
>>Don't think I didn't notice slipping Patricia Heaton into that list of non-monsters. A woman who campaigns against stem cell research, who would have preferred Christopher Reeve remain in his wheelchair than allow research that could lead to a cure for his condition and many others, who works hard to get evil people elected, who - well you know my litany of complaints against her - fits my description of a monster.<<

Patricia Heaton isn't a monster; you are, you nasty, evil intolerant fuckwit. People like you absolutely disgust me."

Thank you, "Anonymous". I at least have the balls to sign my own, real name to my comments. I'm sure you'd disgust me also, if I had any idea whom you are. I have no idea if you're a "fuckwit" or not (Nice term. I like it. Original.), but I do know that you're a coward.

You're welcome to like that evil Republican woman; I'm free not to, unless we are ever taken over by the people who agree with Heaton's politics, and then Freedom will be a distant memory. They took over the House of Representatives last year, and have been a catastrophe for the country.

Love you, whoever you are, hiding behind your anonymity. For the non-anonymous record, that "D" stands for Douglas.

Steve said...

I've waiting to hear from you on her screed, Ken. Nicely done.

Michael Zand said...


No matter how nice, polite and decent these right wing radicals are (see Patricia Heaton) it doesn't change the fact that their real philosophy is: Protect the unborn and once they're born, fuck 'em!" If they want an education, healthcare or to escape a life of poverty, they're on their own. But don't worry we've got prisons and the death penalty to take care of them. I'm with you. I have no more patience for that kind of intellectual and moral dishonesty.

D. McEwan said...

Yes Michael, I've also noticed how "Pro-Lifers" are always also pro-death penalty.

Last week I went to a memorial service for a woman I've known since 1955. Her son is my oldest friend. She was a huge Republican in every sense (The woman was morbidly obese for at least 50 years), and even wrote some of the laws Republicans have gotten on the California books. (She had a law degree.)

So at the service, this one woman, too rich for her own good, lathered in furs, dripping with jewels, told me she was a member of Esther's "Shadow Hills Republican Women's Club." But then she had left the club because they stopped serving a free lunch, and made the members bring their own, so she moved over to the North Hollywood Republican Women's Coven because they DID serve a free lunch. Then, when Shadow Hills started serving lunch again for free, returned to Esther's group.

Yes, they'd "privatized" lunch, like good Republicans, so she had gone elsewhere.

Meanwhile, what was their motto, the thought behind all the legislation Esther wrote and that they sponsered, taking away kid's school lunches and such? --- NO FREE LUNCH!

She was utterly blind to her own blatent hypocrisy, not to mention her cheapness. She was so lucky it was a memorial service, so I had to behave, and couldn't tell the over-rich cow exactly what I thought of her self-serving hypocrasy. (And the service included a gigantic, delicious, free lunch, with five different kinds of dessert after the steak and lobster. I'm not joking.)

Michael Zand said...


Your story is the modern day version of "Let them eat cake." I'm beginning to understand why the guillotine was so popular in 1789.

Andy Ihnatko said...

I was initially a fan of Roseanne's show. It's hard not to appreciate and applaud a show that tried so hard to find truth and comedy in a family with so many disadvantages, and which (initially) succeeded so regularly.

But it was also hard not to notice how firmly the show swung after Roseanne Barr got creative control. In the first season, her character's sister was a police officer with a career and a firmer handle and sense of direction in her life than Roseanne did in hers. By season three or four? She was a complete wreck, and totally dependent on Roseanne for guidance and stability.

Ditto for every other character. Roseanne Conner _always_ had the right answers, _always_ was the one talking sense, _always_ the one character that could see straight through any nonsense and cut to the heart of the matter.

What a waste of a strong, competent cast. It quickly became unwatchable.

Anonymous said...

I am working for a writer that worked for Roseanne and he said it was the worst experience of his life,

David Shipton said...

I am working for a writer that worked for Rosanne, It sounded scary.

Matt Patton said...

A couple of legit points here--women have had problems getting ahead and wielding power in Hollywood because of male resentment. It's getting better, but it's still a struggle.

On the other hand, Roseanne Barr is a deeply-unhappy, emotionally-unstable woman who apparently made life hell for a lot of people who worked on her television show.

The two are not mutually-exclusive. They can both occupy the same space at the same time. I suspect somebody who had it more together than Barr could have asserted herself in a less vindictive, destructive fashion. Women have worked as writers, directors and producers in every major media since the early part of the 20th century, and although they often had a tough time of it, most of them also managed to carve out long careers and people who liked and admired them. Barr has essentially been out of show business since her TV show went off the air. In Barr's defense, it should be noted that she didn't manage to almost to destroy a whole show single-handed the way Charlie Sheen did . . .

Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...

Patricia Heaton may not be a monster on set, but I find her political activities monstrous in the extreme. And her comments about Michael J. Fox were truly offensive.

mike (cadavra) schlesinger said...

(Using my real handle per Ken's request.)

Two points:

1) Over a dozen actors were regulars or recurring over the life of the show, not just relative newcomers like Goodman, Metcalf, Gilbert, Chalke, etc., but also such vets as Martin Mull, Dave Thomas and Estelle Parsons. I've never heard any of them speak at length about the experience, and certainly none have said anything since this article broke. That silence in itself speaks volumes.

2) You don't have to be a genius to understand that happy workers are productive workers. I had an assistant for nine years, and I treated her as a human: never made her punch a clock, let her leave early if she needed to (and the work was done), and when she finally became pregnant at 40, I insisted she stay seated as much as possible and would come to her desk when it was necessary. In return, she busted her ass for me, asked for more work--which I happily gave her--and always called me her "BBE" (Best Boss Ever). By comparison, the exec I shared a suite with treated her staff like shit: they'd walk around looking positively suicidal and the department was always in chaos. And like Roseanne, it was always "their" fault. Some people just never get it.

D. McEwan said...

"Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...
Patricia Heaton may not be a monster on set, but I find her political activities monstrous in the extreme. And her comments about Michael J. Fox were truly offensive."

Agreed wholeheartedly. And welcome to The Heaton Haters Club.

D. McEwan said...

Mike, don't forget Stan Freberg, another who recurred on ROSEANNE at least three times, where the running gag was, every time he encountered Roseanne, he got fired, undoubetly an intentional poking fun at Roseanne's love of firing people, if you call firing people "fun" which her article shows she did. The third time Stan is told "You're fired!" he replies: "Of course I am."

If Donald Trump changes his mind, and decides to run for president after all, Roseanne could re-enter show business by replacng him on The Apprentice, since "You're Fired!" was her catch phrase first.

Lucille Ball was a difficult woman, no one to EVER cross, and ran her sets, and later her studio, with an iron hand, but I never heard anyone call her a bitch, or crazy, or anything else. They respected her, and her writers stayed with her for decades. When I met Lucy, for a radio interview we taped in her home in 1974, she spoke glowingly and respectfully of her writers, giving them ALL the credit for making her, a not-funny person in real life, into a beloved comedy "genuis". (Though her talent and her hard work ethic - she believed in rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal, and then another rehearsal - must share the credit with her writers.)

Lucy had no time to blame others, let alone complain about being held back for being a woman. She was too busy just getting on with her work. She took no pleasure in firing people, and usually only did it for good reasons. (That "usually" is because, her first day on the set of the atroucious Mame, she had the divine Madeline Kahn, blessings and peace be upon her, who was cast as Agnes Gooch, fired because there was no room in a Lucy movie for two funny redheaded women.

Colin Matthew ( said...

In college I took a class in sitcom writing taught by Thom Bray (Designing Women, Nash Bridges). He once mentioned Roseanne and how she treated her writers. He also said that at some point during the 90's, one of the writers had an article about Roseanne published in The New Yorker. Have you seen this article? For the life I me I can't find it.

OH in Quito said...

hug her.

OH in Quito said...

just hug her.

Brian Phillips said...

I think we live in a world where there is too much information to be had too readily.

I'm a Christian, but I'd rather not be lumped in with the nut clusters that thought the rapture would happen over the weekend, nor do I agree with Patricia Heaton's views on stem cell research. Taking that into account, I find "The Middle" to be a funny show, just as I found "Room For Two" funny and both shows are funny in part, because of, not in spite of Heaton.

I am also diametrically opposed to Kelsey Grammer's politics, but I greatly enjoy his work. Does that mean I have to stop watching "Frasier" because he's Republican?

Roseanne's issues are not to be denied, especially taking into account her Multiple Personality Disorder (if this is indeed true). I enjoyed her show quite a lot, however, the behavior that bugged me, that I know about was the fact that in her book, "My Lives", she accused her father of molesting her. This may or may not be so, I pray it isn't. If it isn't, that means she had the reading public on her side, leaving him with no similar forum to refute this accusation. In the same book, she lauds "The Jackie Thomas Show" (as do I, it was a sadly short-lived show) and in a later interview, she dismissed Tom Arnold as little more than a money drain.

There are two factors here: how much should we know about the creative community? I am no less guilty than anyone else, I enjoy reading behind-the-scenes articles, I like reading interviews. Now, a misquote can shoot around the world in frighteningly quick fashion.

The other factor is this: if one has the forums that you are afforded via dint of celebrity, how do you use them? If you don't want people in your business, don't air it. There are things that I know about any number of famous people that I DON'T need to know. I wouldn't want to know them about my next-door neighbors, it's no cooler if Justin Bieber does it (who is like. way. awesome.)

As for disliking Roseanne because she's not everyone's idea of a dreamboat (Cap'n Bob led off, but did not dwell on "pig face"), it still strikes me how much of life is still akin to a high school dance.

It works both ways, especially for women. I happened upon a site that had a bunch of folks defending Sarah Palin. MANY of the posts mentioned FIRST that she was attractive and then some went on to discuss whether they felt she was qualified to hold public office. Would she have whatever credibility that she has if she had a "pig face"?

Would Richard Nixon have gotten less grief (which in many cases was deserved) if he didn't, as David Steinberg said, had, "a face that looked like a foot"?

Having said all of that (and to all of you who are still awake), I will tend to side with Ken Levine on this. Roseanne was blessed with a good stand-up act, a good TV show and whatever issues were there before got worse. Yes, boys and girls are treated differently inside and outside of Hollywood and things have improved SOMEwhat, but there is still work to be done.

As far as great bosses are concerned, I am rather surprised no one has mentioned Carol Burnett. She seems to have been respected and loved by many people and even though it was she and her then-husband Joe Hamilton running the show, ultimately, Burnett was the public face of the show and she seems to have been a good one.

She said that she based her style of running a show on how Garry Moore ran his.

Brian Phillips said...

As I was saying...

And while I agree that it wasn't called the "Kellie Martin Show", I'm certain that the crew of "Life Goes On" appreciated the fact that she'd bake for them (and I also assume that she knew her lines and did other things that wouldn't lengthen their days unnecessarily).

I don't QUITE agree with Great Big Radio Guy, who asserts "...The fact that this creative genius never had another show even 1/10th as successful since ROSEANNE says it all."

Sometimes, great talent only hits it big once. Show biz is a tough nut to crack. We can say, "We love your show ____! It was funny, touching, challenging, amazing, life-changing and it forever changed the shape of art as we know it!"

Then we also say, "Now do it again." Heaven help the person that doesn't hit it out of the park a second time. Some folks know when to absent themselves. Tom Lehrer stopped recording comedy albums when he felt his mind drifting to dinner while he was performing, the writer Paul Rhymer wrote EVERY episode of the radio show "Vic and Sade" from 1932 to 1946 and after that, he pretty much stopped writing comedy and wrote freelance articles.

To D. McEwan: Your two redhead comment put me in mind of a similar situation that arose with Mae West (I have no idea how people felt about working with her, but what a force! A woman actor and writer in those days was a VERY rare thing). Mae West was quite short, so in her movies, she wore sizable heels that she covered with long dresses. She compensated for these heels with her distinctive walk. In one movie, she had a dog and the cameraman shot a scene where she and her dog were walking away from the camera. This got a good laugh from the folks that saw the footage, because it made it look as if the dog's hind quarters and Mae West's were moving in synch. West nixed the idea by saying, "Only one person gets laughs in this scene and that's me, see?" So the footage was scrapped. In the (ahem) end, I think she was right, because I notice that the characters she played are not ridiculed.

However, somewhere, a dog and his/her parents probably cried their eyes out knowing that their best scene was axed.

WV: renead: Sinead O'Connor's daughter.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard Mae West accused of not allowng anyone else to get a laugh in a Mae West movie, which would kind of make one puzzled about She Done Him Wrong with her and WC Fields, but then, I've only read three or four book-length biographies of her. What I have read repeatedly was that she didn't allow other blond women in her films or stage shows (Maila "Vampira" Nurmi claimed she was fired from a Mae West stage show for being blond, but, though it's true Maila was briefly in a Mae West stage show, she is a very unreliable source of anecdotes), and I know that in her contract for Myra Breckenridge it was stipulated that only she could wear black and white in the movie.

Working with Mae West, by most accounts, was pleasant enough, but traveling with her was another matter. When she'd tour in her shows, someone would get tapped to ride with Mae in her limo, and it was a duty all tried to avoid. Mae didn't allow smoking, drinking, or conversation in her limo, and rest room stops were made only at Mae's convenience. She'd read. You had to ride along in silence. (Which begs the question, why did Mae insist on a companion to ignore?)

That seems small potatoes next to working with Roseanne.

The dog story sounds apochryphal. I don't know if it's true or not, but I note that getting a small dog to move its butt in synch with Mae's would have been awfully damn difficult.

D. McEwan said...

Awk! I hit the wrong button. I wrote the "Anonymous" Mae West comment directly above.

WV: inglus: "English" as spelled by someone unfamilaiar with it.

Brian Phillips said...

Hello Anonymous...who sounds an awwwwful lot like D. McEwan:

I think you read what I wrote too quickly or perhaps typed in haste, as I did. Case in point, "My Little Chickadee" was the movie that featured Fields and West. "She Done HIm Wrong" featured West and Cary Grant.

"I've never heard Mae West accused of not allowing anyone else to get a laugh in a Mae West movie, "

...and neither have I. What I wrote that she said that she was the only one to get laughs in that scene, not the movie.

"I note that getting a small dog to move its butt in synch with Mae's would have been awfully damn difficult."

I agree. I wrote that the way the scene was shot made it LOOK as if they were moving in synch. Perhaps I should have said that their rears were both swishing back and forth. It wasn't intentional, which is what made it so funny.

I've only read one biography of West, "Mae West,
The Lies The Legends The Truth"
By George Eells and Stanley Musgrove. That is where I got the dog story. Musgrove was West's friend and eventual publicist, but it's also possible that someone was telling him or Eells an oft-repeated legend, not unlike the death of Bessie Smith, due to being refused admittance to a "Whites Only" hospital that not only got repeated in a number of biographies, but became a play by Edward Albee.*

Thanks for the information on Mae West. I didn't know about the limo rules.

Brian Phillips

*While this is a plausible scenario, which undoubtedly happened to many less fortunate and less famous people, the truth seems to be (corroborated by her stepson, Jack Gee, Jr.) that she was taken to a hospital that admitted African-Americans, but she did from very severe injuries after being hit by a car. I can say with reasonable certainty that Roseanne was NOT driving the car in question.

Johnny Walker said...

I was going to ask your reaction for a Friday question, and here it is! A very interesting read. What you say makes a lot of sense and throws what she said into sharp contrast.

One thing she said stays in my mind, though: Do some writers only laugh at their own jokes?

For those who are interested, here's Joss Whedon's take on working on Roseanne:

WHEDON: It's so sad, because I went on that show because it had a feminist agenda, because it was real, and decent, and incredibly funny. And she brought a lot of that to the table – and she sort of took it away, because her unhappiness made her incredibly divisive and destructive, and that's that. There was a lot of good there.

IGNFF: How would it affect the scripts that were being written?

WHEDON: A lot. She'd be like, "This is crap, I won't do this." She'd just chuck things out.

IGNFF: Arbitrarily?

WHEDON: Yeah, and scripts didn't get better from being written two and a half days at midnight by Danny Jacobson. But, at the end of the day, it was a good stepping-stone, not a good experience. She's not the reason I quit. Having been rewritten almost to death, I got shut out of the process – and I thought the producers were talented and good friends, but I couldn't work for them anymore, because I don't like getting paid to do nothing.

MonthofSundays said...

You know when you point out that her position is " ... so misguided and ridiculous that it doesn’t even warrant a rebuttal"? That could have been a good place to stop your rebutting ... But then I would not have enjoyed the piece as much.

kennyevil said...

Hi Ken,

Weirdly i read this blog this morning and had it relinked by a couple of other people. Feeble minds eh?

I have to say that Roseanne's original article has convinced me to buy her autobiography though it also convinced me to read it with a fistful of salt.

I liked your response and it's good to hear from someone who, while he wasn't there, is close enough to have heard. That bit about numbering her writers was frankly horrible.

Still though, this article was phrased as more of a cautionary tale of the perils of fame than a defense of her actions. I'd also love to see that picture of George Clooney battering the chocolate '1' with a baseball bat. Surely a copy of that may exist somewhere.

Finally, I'd just like to say thank you. I've immensely enjoyed the sitcom episodes that you and your partner have written over the years, the highlights of which had to be the Bar Wars episodes of Cheers. Whilst i may not always agree with everything you write here, i always read it with interest.


D. McEwan said...

"Brian Phillips said...
Hello Anonymous...who sounds an awwwwful lot like D. McEwan:"

Yes, which is why the next comment after is me explaining that I hit the wrong button and accidentally posted as "Anonymous," and took credit/blame for my comment.

You are, of course, completely correct on the movie title correction. My writing the wrong title was a total brain fart on my part. For heaven's sake, I have TWO DVDs of My Little Chickadee (It comes in both a collection of WC Fields movies and a collection of Mae West movies, hence my having it twice), you'd think I could get the title right, but no. I hate being fallilbe. It prevents me from being Pope, that and not being Catholic.

Hotcha said...

A story of low self-esteem, if there ever was one. And it did hit the bottom with that call to the restaurant; I mean, how can someone in the top ten not know what it means when he's refused a last-minute table reservation. And then to have her poor assistant make a false reservation for Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, only to cancel 5 minutes before they are meant to show up, saying they preferred an evening with Roseanne. What ridiculous behavior. The worst: She does not realize it herself even after all these years and tells us this story like it was a well-deserved punishment for the restaurant's management (who was only doing his job). Crazy.

David K. M. Klaus said...

It's interesting to read that Tom Arnold was protective of the writers' work, calming Ms Barr down and getting her to at least try the material. An interview published shortly after Mr. Arnold left the show depicted John Goodman jumping up and going to the door to check if a noise in the hall was Mr. Arnold and being protective of Ms Barr. And there was no mention here of the supposed epic battles between Ms Barr and Lecy Goranson.

It seems to me there was both plenty of good intentions and bad behavior going around.

Johnny Walker said...

Phew, I just read all these comments. Lots of good points made, too. I do think Ken took the low road in some places, now that it's been pointed out to me, and article's title isn't doing it any favours.

I also wonder how fair it is to call Roseanne a "bitch" and a "cunt". It does seem that women are called out on unreasonable behaviour more so than men. I'm not saying she was peaches and cream, but men seem to be able to get away with worse behaviour.

We may all think that Charlie Sheen is crazy, but nobody is hates him because of his behaviour.

How many people despise Christian Bale after his on-set rant was made public? Or David O'Russell? For some reason more attempt is made to understand bad behaviour in men, than it is in women. Women seem to get dismissed almost immediately.

Of course, all that said, it's clear that in subsequent seasons Roseanne WAS calling the shots, and the atmosphere on that show apparently did not improve. She undoubtedly suffered from massive insecurity, and perhaps other problems, but (of course) that doesn't excuse her apparently on-set behaviour.

Interestingly, none of the cast have ever said anything bad about her, and often defend her. And to clarify: Joss Whedon did NOT leave because of Roseanne, as much as he said she hurt the writers.

Final thought: Roseanne is clearly a talent, and she is absolutely right about the working class not being represented by Hollywood.

Johnny Walker said...

Men aren't immune, of course: Mel Gibson is a testament to that.

D. McEwan said...

"Johnny Walker said...
I also wonder how fair it is to call Roseanne a 'bitch' and a 'cunt'."

OBVIOUSLY it's neither fair nor polite to use such terms about Roseanne. However, "Insane rant" seems a fairly accurate assessment, once one factors in that this is a COMEDY column by a COMEDY writer, and therefore will employ comic hyperbole for humorous effect.

" It does seem that women are called out on unreasonable behaviour more so than men."

Does it? Only if men are the only people you are listening too. Women call out men more than women all the time. Lot's of Male Bashing in Roseanne's screed.

We may all think that Charlie Sheen is crazy, but nobody is hates him because of his behaviour."

Oh really? Talked to Chuck Lorre recently? Or anyone who paid money to see his one-man "shows" and walked out booing? Or me?

"How many people despise Christian Bale after his on-set rant was made public?"

Impossible to quantify accurately, but put me on the Bale-haters list. Were I casting soemthing, I'd never employ him. I'm certain I'm not alone in having my respect for him evaporate the day I saw that video of his atrocious on-set behavior, never to return.

Johnny Walker said...

Goodness. Sorry, Mr McEwan, but I think you put far too much stock into your own opinion.

"Women call out men more than women all the time."

Thanks for clarifying this for us all.

I'll just add, the only reason I bring up Sheen is because someone used him as an example of a "male Roseanne" and proof that the public turned against him, as they did her.

That simply isn't the case.

Sheen's "boos" were made by people who had paid money to see him to a one-man show. Does that not register something with you? Can you make a connection there?

Not only that, but a tiny bit of digging reveals that the press made far more of that than it actually was.

Lastly, Sheen has found generally favourable (if bewildered) reactions from the public.

D. McEwan said...

"Johnny Walker said...
Goodness. Sorry, Mr McEwan, but I think you put far too much stock into your own opinion."

So I should igonroe my own opinions? That makes no sense whatsoever. Of course I put stock in my opinions. They're my opinions. Whose should I put stock in? Not yours.

"Sheen's 'boos' were made by people who had paid money to see him to a one-man show. Does that not register something with you? Can you make a connection there?"

Apparently not, as I have not the faintest idea what you're driving at in that paragrpah. Really, what is the mysterious connestion I'm supposed to be making? You seem to think you've said something obvious there, much like Sheen thinks he's making sane, irrefutable points when he's really just babbling his mental illness all over the place.

"a tiny bit of digging reveals that the press made far more of that than it actually was."

Are you on his public relations staff? I saw videos of portions of Charlie's one-man shows, and those audiences were incensed at the boring, self-indulgent, madness they were being bored by. I don't know where you get the idea that "Sheen has found generally favourable (if bewildered) reactions from the public" but it just ain't so.

JamesOgle said...

James O. Ogle, Joogle
(Why do you THINK they called it Google?)

Queen Roseanne the First [Green Tea] is currently one of the best team players we've got in the USA Parliament.

She nominated more than 60 names for the USA Parliament's national voter registration drive on three levels: mini-state, super-state and national Cabinet.

Though I'm not all that familiar with the Roseanne Show or the situation surrounding the credits, actors and writers, I am aware of the fact that there is an inequity in politics towards women because of single winner districts, and that she's a good enough mathematician to understand that pure proportional representation (PR) in two or more member districts is the solution.

I'd be happy to work with a person of her character anytime, in fact I'm trying to help her by running my name as vice president.

I think she'd rock as the first women president in the USA, and we've got a lot of work ahead of us to get her on the ballot in every state as an independent.

Go Draft Barr/Ogle for President 2012!

Anonymous said...

"Queen Roseanne the First" ... now if that isn't crazy then idk what is. You must be on of the ones who strayed for Roseanne's blog website because this article apparently pissed her off so bad that she posted a rant on her own site about this article, linking it.
Props Ken Levine, nice work on that. lmfao.

Anonymous said...

D McEwan, if it were up to you, would you have hired Heaton for The Middle?

Brian Phillips said...

To D. McEwan: I knew about the Anonymous/D. McEwan error. That's why I wrote what I did and one if a few reasons people aren't reading about MY successful comedy writing career.

D. McEwan said...

"Anonymous said...
D McEwan, if it were up to you, would you have hired Heaton for The Middle?"

I would not have hired her for anything, and she is why I have yet to see an episode of THE MIDDLE

Script Girl said...

Someone mentioned Carol Burnett above... little known (or talked about) fact. Matt Williams executive produced Carol Burnett's late '80s show "Carol and Company." It was an anthology series and ran for 2 seasons on NBC.

It was my first "show-biz" job, Matt hired me out of college as one of the writer's assistants for the show, and while he didn't go on to promote me as one of his writers (nor did my writing talent warrant it at that time)-- I learned more about television production from that experience than in the other 15 years I was in the business combined.

Matt is a really nice guy. He and Ms. Burnett didn't agree on every single script (and we had a lot of late nights to prove it), but it didn't deteriorate into war, it seems to me that was Ms. Barr's contribution.

She is right about the sexism in Hollywood... it doesn't just happen in the writer's room... it's all over the industry. It is challenging to be a girl at the boys table.

Of the other noted "monsters" Cybil, and Brett Butler... interesting to note those shows came out of the same Carsey-Werner house... as did the Cosby show and Mr. Cosby doesn't exactly have the reputation of being "easy going." Most Carsey-Werner productions are star-driven, that means the star will stay and the writer will be driven to his car when his option is up. I worked on a few Carsey-Werner vehicles and saw it more than once. The show is designed to serve the "unique personality" of the star-- not the creative talents of the writer. It is a difficult marriage if the groom expects otherwise.

Script-driven shows tend to run more smoothly because you are dealing with an actor vs. a talented person. There's a creative process for actors, talent just wants "funny stuff" actors actually like stories and characters that develop. Another Carsey-Werner vehicle that would be case in point is 3rd Rock from the Sun... John Lithgow is an actor... he brought something to a well written script... the writers then play off of the adds he makes and it becomes a joint creative process.

One bone to pick with Mr. Levine, I've been in too many writer's rooms to buy the line about writer's "happily" changing a line if an actor doesn't like it. Writer's think gold drips from their pens and actors are too dumb to get it. Do they change it? Sure, but "happily" is an overstatement.

Unknown said...

I am reading this with great interest. I do think it is about perspective. Certainly Roseanne is combative, her track record is clear on that but I don't believe for a second that Matt was totally innocent either. Certainly this is not the first time in Hollywood that the creative force behind a show was sidelined by a show runner. It all sounds like he-said, she-said and while I don't believe for a second that Roseanne was some shrinking violet victim getting run over by the big boys and I do believe she has an axe to grind, you also sound contemptuous.

Roseanne is likely a difficult woman but she did make that show what it is and while I don't think she is by any stretch of the imagination a freedom fighter for the cause of women I do think she is free to write an opinion piece. It's her opinion, it may be a rant and it may be insane but this is her experience.

Let it be.

Anonymous said...

>>D McEwan, if it were up to you, >>would you have hired Heaton for
>> The Middle?"

>I would not have hired her for >anything,

Sounds McCarthyite. Then again, the real history is that the Left created the Hollywood blacklist.

Andy Nonymous said...

Oh, I get it! When Roseanne does it she's a bitch but when Charlie Sheen does it he's a hero. Well, glad that was cleared up.


Jennifer R. said...

I happen to be a huge fan of Roseanne's show, the struggling, working class lifestyle reminded me a bit of my own family, and I loved the character of Roseanne Conner. That show was really groundbreaking and did a lot of honest comedy that touched me. (I remember an episode where she forced DJ to answer the phone because it was going to be another bill collector...)

One of the things that I find interesting, in terms of sexism/not sexism, is the simple fact that the women we see mentioned as being difficult to work for such as Roseanne, Cybil and Brett, are all somewhat universally known as On the other hand, someone mentioned that Bill Cosby is tough to work for...that sure hasn't made the tabloids. As far as Charlie Sheen is concerned, look at all of the attempts that were made to gloss over his behavior and dismiss it and get him treatment for addiction? He has a very very long history of violence around women, and I don't believe that the ridiculous rants we've recently witnessed are completely out of character. Yet, did any of us know it until recently?

The same might be said of Mel Gibson. If there wasn't a tape recording of his anti-semitic rant, would it be known that that was a part of his persona?

My point is not to defend Roseanne, but to point out that while Industry skuttlebutt may let you know you don't want to work for 'that guy' the people mistreated by 'that guy' don't see quite as much need to trash him quite as often or frequently as the women get publicly trashed.

For example, my mother was at a rehearsal of the tv show Coach, with Craig T. Nelson, who threw the script down, called it crap, and stormed off the set cursing the writers telling everyone he wasn't going to say the blankety blank lines. Yet, as an average person, I've never heard jack shit about Craig being a diva on set or tough to work for.

Anonymous said...

I odnt understand why she is so insane. She was soooo good in the beginning, like season 1 to 3 of Rosanne - very lovable and funny - and She Devil. Now she seems like a crazy old Lady screaming conspiracy theories.

Eric said...

Wow. I wonder if some of you have ever worked in the real world. Guys who are abusive get called out all the time. "Dick" , "prick", "bastard"....ever hear those terms used before? Even the supposedly gender-neutral "asshole" is almost reserved exclusively for men. And these words get thrown around A LOT. Funny how feminists clamored for the right to be treated like men. Well, here you are. This is how men often treat each other. Those on top will walk all over those on the bottom. Now stop complaining.

There is one difference. When white males treat people like dirt, they don't have the luxury of claiming that they are actually victims of discrimination or of sexual abuse as an excuse for their behavior. Although a few seem to give it a try anyway.

Anonymous said...

I'm considerably late to this post and subsequent debate, but wanted to comment.

Ken, I completely understand your side of the story. Matt Williams was only one of the people with battle scars from that show. I remember reading a quote from Amy Sherman Palladino where she said Roseanne would only refer to writers by numbers, not names, to de-personify them.

I do have an appreciation for much of her show, and I recognize her. I don't "know" her, but Roseanne Connor (and the parts of Roseanne Barr in that character) represent a lot of women I've known.

I don't think monsters are born, they're made. And I think after years of corrosive energy being tossed at her for not being Donna Reed, or the thin Bouncy McFunBags picture of feminine beauty the audience still seeks out today, she put up the porcupine quills and became utterly defensive.

Those things can all be true and she can have some very valid arguments about her side of the story….AND it is also still true that none of that should have impacted her ability to be, at minimum, professional and courteous on set.

Sadly, Roseanne reminds me of (go with me for a second here) Boy George….a performer who has fallen from favor and who has been "poised for comeback"….yet if you take a moment to read interviews with him or his Twitter, his biggest achievement/thrill/badge of honor seems to be in rejecting people. As in: I'm so talented/awesome/hot I can reject them - and you too! It's emotional high school, and Roseanne does largely the same thing in her writing.

I completely agree that she's escaped taking ownership of her issues and/or bad behavior in many ways that she should have, long ago. But I also find Chuck Lorre's lack of ownership interesting as well. If we completely set any/all gender issues aside, and look at four performers he worked with (Barr, Brett Butler, Cybill Shepard and Charlie Sheen) I think that there's a pattern of people who were all non-conformists or a little eccentric. That conflict, that FLAME in them is what fueled the success of those shows. But that leads me to question intent. Because how does someone build a show around an unpredictable entity….and then rage against that unpredictability? That strikes me a bit as hiring a dancing monkey and then yelling at it for dancing.

Jezebel said...

“Too angry, or too hateful, too hysterical, too mean, not calm enough, not nice enough, 'insane', etc.” are not qualities anyone in their right mind wants to work with. They are signs of low social intelligence and in the real world those are the people everyone is glad to see axed during lay-offs. Such unprofessionalsim in a workplace cannot be justified.

Jezebel said...

Bipolar disorder is not created from molestation.

Jezebel said...

Those behaviors are also symptoms of personality disorders. Personality disordered individuals generally make many accusations of unfounded abuse and betrayals throughout their lives and use histrionics and self-righteous anger to control others.