Roseanne Barr: Fighting Her Way Back Up in Hollywood

Few people in Hollywood make our jaws drop like Roseanne Barr. She had a lengthy career, with all the drama to match. She has made headlines so often that you would think she was collecting them like awards. This made us think: what are some of the wildest things we have heard about her life?

Photographs of Roseanne

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Roseanne has worked through triumph and tragedy, and she has made it clear for years that she refuses to go down without a fight. She has had beef with stars of competing sitcoms, many marriages, and kids, and has even gone as far as buying a farm in Hawaii. This is the story of Roseanne Barr, from her childhood until today.

She Was Destined for Comedy

Roseanne is a household name in the world of television. Say what you want about her, but she has made it far in the entertainment world and has not always had the easiest go of everything. She is seen as a pioneer for women in the field of comedy, and it seems as though her upbringing may have foreshadowed what would become of her.

Roseanne Barr sitting on stage making peace signs with her hands

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Roseanne was destined for the comedy world from a young age. Her father Jerry had his own stand-up comedy aspirations, and they would listen to comedy legends, like Lenny Bruce, together. They would sit in front of their television set at home and watch variety shows and stand-up comics throughout her childhood.

Her Humble Beginnings

Roseanne Barr’s early career days were not unlike those of her peers in the comedy industry. She was a married mother of three by her mid-20s and worked as a waitress at a chain restaurant in Denver to pay the bills. Times were tough, and she struggled to get by, but she knew great things were coming her way.

Roseanne Barr as a young girl

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She decided to give it a shot in the comedy world by approaching an open mic night at a Denver local club. She received some laughs and was instantly hooked. She knew she could use comedy as a way to spread her ideas on how the world should work and eventually used that to create sitcoms that would eventually become staples of modern television.

Growing Up In Salt Lake City

Roseanne Barr was born to a Jewish family in Salt Lake City, Utah, on November 3rd, 1952. She was the oldest of four children, and life in Salt Lake City was no cakewalk. The largely Mormon state made it hard for the family to live an openly religious life, so they felt the need to hide their religious views most of the time.

Roseanne posing for a portrait

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Despite being Jewish, Roseanne was later elected President of her local Mormon youth group. At the age of 16, she was hit by a car, leaving her with a traumatic brain injury. She was institutionalized at a hospital in Utah to help curb her major behavioral changes that came with it. She ended up moving out of her parent’s home at age 18 by telling her parents she would visit a friend in Colorado. She never returned.

A High School Dropout

The aforementioned car accident led Roseanne to be institutionalized, which eventually caused her to leave school for good. The accident ultimately changed her brain functioning, leaving her with nightmares and memory loss. Naturally, this made day-to-day life a lot more difficult.

Roseanne posing on a wooden fence

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After being committed for eight months, she almost immediately left school. She began working as a “salad girl” in a local restaurant until she turned 18. From then, she uprooted her life and headed to Colorado, where she continued the same kind of work but also began performing stand-up.

Becoming a Comedy Persona

By the time she started pursuing comedy in Denver, she was married with kids. Her friends encouraged her to put her humor to good use, and she began performing. Her style was frequently defined as “salty,” which is quite obvious anytime you watch her old performances.

Roseanne performing stand up

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She referred to herself as a “domestic goddess” in her performances. “Domestic Goddess” would soon become the title of a cooking show she starred in that was canceled before it ever aired. Though this seems like a coveted title, she was often seen as someone who “slouched toward stardom.”

The “Domestic Goddess”

Roseanne describes her act as her personality coming to life. She blazed the trail not only for women in comedy, but also for comedians starring in their own sitcoms. Her “domestic goddess” comedy routine was performed on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, which grabbed TV producers’ attention.

Roseanne sitting on the stage at a press conference for the show Domestic Goddess

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Those producers, Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner had already planned to create a sitcom centered around a working mother. After seeing her perform successfully in 1985, they offered her the show. She might not have been the first stand-up to make a move to TV, but her successes did pave the way for other networks to start offering comedians, like Ellen DeGeneres and Ray Romano, their own shows.

Roseanne Was Originally Called Life and Stuff

Believe it or not, the show was initially called Life and Stuff, which was meant to be a benign title to establish the show as an ensemble piece. Roseanne made the argument that since the show was about her and a fictionalized version of her life, it should be called something similar to that. It would not make sense for a show about her to have such a general name!

The cast of Roseanne posing on and around the sofa

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The creator of the show, Matt Williams, was also the head writer and executive producer. Not long after Roseanne argued that the show should be named after her (she was the lead, and it was based on her life, after all), Williams left the show after one season. Were the two connected? We may never know the truth.

All Her Ex-Husbands Appeared On Her Show

As we’ve said so many times before, love is a journey. Roseanne has proved this through her husbands over the years. We’ll elaborate on her previous marriages later, but we learned something pretty cool: all three of her ex-husbands made guest appearances on her show! One of them was even part of the inspiration behind it.

Bill Pentland and Roseanne leaving the People's Choice Awards

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The sitcom Roseanne was inspired by her life with her first husband, Bill Pentland, and their three children. Not only was he an executive consultant for the show, but he wrote two episodes and even played one of his own friends. They were divorced in 1990, after 16 years, and she was remarried just days later to Tom Arnold, who had a recurring role as Arnie Thomas. A few years later, she married her former bodyguard Ben Thomas, and they gave him bit roles as a cop.

Roseanne Barr for President

Did you know that Roseanne actually ran for President of the United States? In 2012, she decided to put her name on the ballot on a California political party ticket. Her political views and activism have never been hidden by her, and she used her self-proclaimed identity as a working-class feminist throughout her career in the roles she played.

Roseanne on the red carpet wearing a 'Vote for Roseanne 2012' pin on her hat

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When she ran for the President of the United States’ ultimate post, she committed to California’s “Peace and Freedom Party” on the ticket. She placed in sixth place overall, receiving over 60,000 votes! Maybe next time, Roseanne – as recent years have shown, anyone can hold that position!

Mom and Daughter, Reunited

When Roseanne Barr was 18 years old, she had a baby girl that she put up for adoption. She reportedly wanted to keep her daughter but found her hands tied as an unwed mother with no money or way to support herself. This led to her decision to give her baby a chance at a better life by giving her to someone who could take care of her.

Roseanne and her daughter Brandi on the red carpet

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The family that adopted her baby, whom Roseanne named Brandi, was waiting for years for a Jewish baby to become available. Even then, Roseanne knew she would see her daughter again someday. She hired a private investigator before, by the time Brandi turned 18 years old, and she was finally reconnected with her. The two had reunited at a Los Angeles area hotel.

Parking Spot Fights

Fighting over ratings definitely makes more sense than this fight. Roseanne and Tom Arnold, one of her ex-husbands, had been involved in an ongoing argument with a certain Seinfeld star over something so minimal on the ABC lot. Can you guess who it was?

Roseanne arriving to an event / Julia Louis-Dreyfuss on the red carpet

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These two fought with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss over a parking spot on the ABC lot. ABC’s studio lot hosted both shows, Roseanne and Seinfeld. This just shows that different people prioritize different things. Maybe they channeled their frustrations into writing for their shows, but maybe… just maybe, they were just consumed with pettiness?

Dropping the “Barr”

Many people who are (or were) fans of her show might not even consider her last name when learning about her. As it turns out, there is a real reason why she dropped her last name in her credits and began to just be known as “Roseanne” and became an icon.

Roseanne sitting at a table with John Goodman in the kitchen during a scene in Roseanne

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Roseanne was married and divorced three times. Each marriage lived its life, and while she did not wait too long to move on to the next, she was happy to make her life easier and drop her last name when she divorced her second husband, Tom Arnold.

Husband Number One: Bill Pentland

Though her television persona was in a happy marriage onscreen, her real-life was not like that. She was first married at age 22 to her first husband, Bill Pentland. Their marriage lasted for years; they even had three children together. He was working as a motel clerk when she arrived in Colorado in 1974.

Roseanne and Bill posing together

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Pentland played a role in the show Roseanne. He worked as an executive consultant for the program – it was based on his wife’s life, after all! Even after their divorce, he remained on show credits until 1991.

Husband Number Two: Tom Arnold

Like clockwork, Roseanne remarried quickly after her first divorce. She was married a mere four days after divorcing Pentland! She married fellow comedian Tom Arnold in 1990, and while their marriage lasted only a few years, they had made waves in the public eye. Apparently, at the reception of their wedding, Arnold shouted out something memorable.

Roseanne and Tom on their wedding day / Roseanne and Tom posing back to back

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At the reception, Arnold proclaimed, “We’re America’s worst nightmare: white trash with money!” That may be an opinion, but hey – whatever worked for them! Roseanne brought her husband onto the show as a writer, but he ended up playing a recurring role for years. The two were known for loving attention and doing anything they could to be in the headlines, as often as possible.

The Third and Final Husband: Ben Thomas

The third and final husband, Ben Thomas, was once Roseanne’s bodyguard! They got married on Valentine’s Day in 1995. The two had a son together, Buck, who was conceived by IVF, or in-vitro fertilization. She also went through gastric bypass surgery while they were married, and they were together when the show Roseanne finally came to an end.

Roseanne and Ben on the red carpet

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Unlike her second marriage, her new husband rarely made headlines. She put him in the show for a couple of various extra roles, usually as cops, and these are the only acting credits he has. He did, however, make headlines during a custody dispute over their son, Buck. Roseanne and Buck had a new home in Hawaii, and Thomas, her now ex-husband, wanted her to pay for him to come to visit.

Her Current Man: Johnny Argent

Roseanne and Johnny Argent met through a writing competition she hosted on her website in 2003. It was an instant connection. The two never married, but they do remain as a couple and even live together in Hawaii. It is rumored that he called off their impending wedding because he felt it would be too stressful for her with the public attention she’d been getting in 2018.

Roseanne and Johnny leaving the set of Jimmy Kimmel live

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The two had been on such a rollercoaster together. Amidst her loud, politically charged comments in 2018, he came to her rescue and either intervened or joined the fight – which one still remains unclear. Argent made appearances in Roseanne’s later reality programs, too.

Roseanne’s Nuts

What a title to have! In 2011, a new reality show came into existence. Remember that home in Hawaii that Roseanne moved to with her son, Buck? Well, it turns out she did not stop there. She went on to purchase a 40-acre macadamia nut farm! The farm has over 4,000 trees and is located on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Roseanne holding packs of her nuts

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While Roseanne and Argent raised livestock along with the nuts, they also starred in a reality show depicting everything they did on the farm. The Washington Post described the show as “40 acres and one very stubborn mule,” which tells a story in itself, just from a headline!

“Nuts” Does Not Begin to Cover It!

Yes, you read that correctly. To say that Roseanne Barr’s show about a nut farm was “nuts” suggests that some havoc was wreaked along the process. This seems evident to anyone who has any recollection of her personality. The Lifetime series depicts her in a new persona, but still, not as anything too different.

Roseanne and Johnny sitting on her nut farm

Source: Lifetime

Roseanne spends her time on the show acting like a TV crew just walked into her home without any kind of warning. She runs around with her gun in tow, often chasing pigs and yelling at anything she can. The Washington Post refers to her as a “get off my land patriot” in the program, though you could say that about her in real life, too.

National Anthem… Or Not

There are so many people in Hollywood who are seen as talented across the board. Roseanne Barr is not one of those people! She took a stab at singing the USA national anthem at a San Diego Padres baseball game in 1990. The performance was really… something else. Yes, she was booed the entire time.

Roseanne performing

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Her performance was arranged when Tom Werner, one of the producers of Roseanne and co-owner of The Carsey-Werner Company, decided to purchase a major league baseball team, the San Diego Padres. Sometimes referred to as the “Rose-anthem,” she received much pushback from the team, the MLB, and the managers – she was even called out by former President George H.W. Bush.

Outrage, Fueled By Roseanne

If anything is proven through her ridiculous performance, it’s that it made a lasting impression throughout the ages. Americans, like many other people across the world, take their national anthem seriously. The same thing with the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” – singing these songs has a level of importance that people do not want anyone to mess with. This is the platform Roseanne used to spark national fury.

Roseanne Barr sitting with Tom Arnold while she defends herself

Roseanne defending herself at a press conference after the baseball game fiasco. Photo by Vinnie Zuffante / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

More than 25 years later, this performance is still spoken about. People still remember her holding her crotch, spitting on the ground, and intentionally missing notes. Even if she were to argue her actions as a parody, the more than 27,000 paying fans were not pleased. Reporters at the time even compared it to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Instead of seeing the opportunity as something to give her good PR, she saw it as a place to test her limits. Word to the wise: don’t enlist Roseanne Barr to sing anything from now on!

The Roast of Roseanne Barr

In 2012, Roseanne received one of the greatest honors (depending on how you look at it!) in Hollywood. She was the center of her very own Comedy Central Roast! Following the lead of this episode’s Roastmaster General, Jane Lynch, tons of hilarious comics and entertainers took the stage to show her the best of what they had – all, most likely, in good fun.

Gilbert Gottfried roasting Roseanne

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A slew of performers brought their best to show their love-hate relationship with the honorable woman of the night. Jeffrey Ross, Wayne Brady, Seth Green, Gilbert Gottfried, Anthony Jeselnik, Carrie Fisher, Amy Schumer, and Tom Arnold all made appearances and presentations at the star-studded event.

Child-Star Central

Her original show was flooded with guest appearances by child stars who would go on to do big things. These kids made appearances pre-fame, even if they were minor characters or extras. They mostly played the friends of the Conner children. Sometimes they were classmates as well – which is kind of the same thing.

George Clooney waving his hands around wearing a Hawaiian t-shirt in a scene from Roseanne

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Some of these awesome appearances include Leonardo Di Caprio, Tobey Maguire, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Beyond child actors, many other actors who were early in their careers made appearances on the sitcom. George Clooney, Bruce Willis, and Alyson Hannigan were among those who played roles. Neil Patrick Harris even made an appearance as his famous character, Dr. Doogie Howser.

An Obligatory Family Vacation

Roseanne’s TV family was a blue-collar family in middle America. They didn’t have much money, let alone enough to take vacations, at least not often. Much like many sitcoms of the time, the Conner family was lucky enough to take a Disney World vacation!

The Conners at Disney World

Source: Twitter

In 1995, ABC and Disney merged companies. With this merger, the Disney company would now require that every family television show on the network would have to visit one of their theme parks in an episode – whether at Disneyland in California or at Walt Disney World in Florida.

The Little Rosey Spin-Off

There were talks of spin-offs of the show, and some were actually created. Roseanne resulted in an animated spin-off called Little Rosey. The show came out in 1990 and aired on ABC’s Saturday morning lineup. Unfortunately, the show met its demise too soon.

A shot of the cartoon The Little Rosey

Source: YouTube

The show followed eight-year-old Roseanne through a fictionalized version of her own childhood. Little Rosey was booted from television after that wildly inappropriate performance of the national anthem that same year. Fortunately, though, Little Rosey’s demise left space on the roster for a new hit: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

Checking Her List

Roseanne’s public temper suggests that she’s someone you don’t want to mess with. According to Stealing the Show, she apparently kept a list of anyone and everyone who bothered her or just didn’t get along with her. Apparently, there was a note that she had written that would certainly stir the pot!

Roseanne posing at an event

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Supposedly, this note read:  “These are the people who are going to be fired if they’re not nice to me. People who I am the boss of – everybody … all producers, all writers, all subject to change.” She even dared to list her network’s President!

Feeding the Monster

In 1992, the British Broadcast Company (BBC) made a documentary to show the world the other side of Roseanne. The 50-minute film was supposedly not named for the show’s namesake but rather for the “monster” that was the show itself. The BBC tried to also show the parallels between Roseanne and a similar show, The Jackie Thomas Show.

Roseanne cutting a cake

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The documentary follows the star and her reactions as she would receive scripts. The documentary also depicted Roseanne and her husband as the creative forces that would always get their way, no exceptions. The documentary’s producer expressed that after filming, he believed she “thrives on controversy.” Maybe he’s right.

Roseanne’s Big Mouth

Roseanne did not have the best childhood, from what she has reported. The television show aired a series of episodes, a three-episode arc, centered around a domestic abuse storyline. These episodes were entitled Crime and Punishment, and they pulled on the heartstrings of everyone who watched. However, these episodes made a different impact than she anticipated.

Martin Mull talking to Roseanne Barr in a diner in a scene from Roseanne

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According to People magazine, shortly after this episode aired, Roseanne revealed to an audience at a Survivor’s United Network event that her father had abused her as a child. In 2011, she told Oprah on her show that she regretted going public about it and calling it incest, for whatever reason she may have had. Unfortunately, Roseanne and her sister were estranged from their family for 12 years because of her public comment. However, you can’t change the past – you can only use your experience to help others if possible.

Seinfeld versus Roseanne

Remember the spat over a parking spot that we mentioned earlier? It turns out it does not stop there. Her husband at the time, Tom Arnold, continued his involvement in the childish dispute by writing a note and placing it on Julia Louis-Dreyfuss’s car.

Tom Arnold and Roseanne in the kitchen on the show Roseanne

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Arnold’s note read, “How stupid are you? Move your f***ing car, you a**hole!” Being the wonder that she is, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss did not accept this. Along with other cast and crew members from Seinfeld, she showed up to The Jackie Thomas Show’s set, where Arnold was also working. They confronted him, and he confessed to writing the nasty note. Come on, man – it’s just a parking spot!

Spinoff Central

ABC was excited to revive Roseanne as a brand new show, The Conners. This revival would star some of the same people, of course, including Roseanne herself. The show actually would have had a name resembling the last, but controversy caused everyone to tense up, and there was some fallout as a result.

The cast of The Conners sitting around the kitchen table without Roseanne

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Due to uncomfortable and race-related comments and tweets toward a former adviser to the Obama administration, the network decided they would not tolerate it. Much of Hollywood blacklisted her as a result, and she was actually killed off of the show before it even aired!

We’ve Got Beef!

Listen, we’re not saying that Roseanne is a fighter, but she definitely has her opinions and makes it known when she doesn’t like someone – at any level. The issues as mentioned earlier she had with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss over a parking spot followed both of them for much longer than they should have.

Roseanne on The tonight show with Jay Leno

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Barr went on to talk about Louis-Dreyfuss on shows like David Letterman, using cruel and unnecessary language to describe this person she barely knew. She also had attacked others, like Valerie Jarrett, about whom she made a racist comment on Twitter. There are probably some other feuds, too!

The Real House

When you watch shows like Roseanne, you might think that it is filmed in a big studio, complete with all of the fixings to make a show or movie the best it can be. However, it is not uncommon for a show to be filmed on location in a new place for authenticity.

Roseanne Barr and Laurie Metcalf sitting on the bathroom floor in a scene from Roseanne

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That was the case here! The Conner house is a real house situated in Evansville, Indiana. The show is set in a fictional town called Lanford, Illinois, and the show likely wanted to give the feeling of any typical American town.

Writers Leaving, Left and Right

Fans of the show can probably see when the show went “downhill,” or at least when it started to. John Goodman, who played Roseanne’s husband in the show, revealed that she was quite harsh on writers, though Goodman believed it was necessary for the show’s success.

John Goodman and Roseanne standing around the couch

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This comment followed a conversation about the writers that had all recently exited the show. Writers Sherman, Zimmerman, Berg, and Arnold all left Roseanne at the end of the sixth season. As the saying goes – if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen!

When the Conners Won the Lottery

The final season of Roseanne had a shaky start, as tensions were apparently high amongst the writers. The ninth season started off with the Conners winning the lottery, and tension was building in the writer’s room about how the family would react and the best way to end the show.

The cast of Roseanne holding roses

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Roseanne told Spin magazine that she was returning the show to its roots. She said that she wanted to communicate “how dreams come true. You know, the American dream and how these incredible things happened to me, who used to be this housewife with all these kids.”

Killed Off in a Brutal Way

The team behind the reboot of Roseanne decided to divulge the specifics of her gruesome dismissal from the show and how they went about depicting it. They took a controversial route – the show claimed her character died of a drug overdose!

Laurie Metcalf, Lecy Goranson, and Sara Gilbert gossiping around the diner countertop in a scene from Roseanne

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The series revival would be moving on without her due to her controversial and harsh comments made in 2018. At first, they almost left it at her character having a heart attack due to a recent surgery. Instead, they chose to kill her off by having her onscreen husband reveal that she had died of an overdose.

Not a Single Emmy

Despite being at the top of the charts for years, the original sitcom did not win a single Emmy in its nine-season tenure. Though the show did not win any Emmys for itself, Roseanne Barr and Laurie Metcalf did win awards for themselves.

Laurie and Roseanne with the cast of Roseanne on the red carpet holding their People's Choice Award

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Despite the upset, producer Carsey told Entertainment Weekly, “The Emmys tend to favor certain kinds of comedies. Things that are smart and upscale — Frasier kind of things tend to be nominated more than downscale things. Lucy never got an Emmy! I think we’re in good company here.”

Downwardly Mobile

It seems that Roseanne Barr has a type of character and setting that she always falls into. In 2012, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Roseanne and her television husband John Goodman were set to reunite on a new NBC pilot called Downwardly Mobile.

John Goodman and Roseanne Barr on the red carpet

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Downwardly Mobile was to depict Roseanne as a mother who lives in and owns a trailer park. Goodman would play her employee, and who knows – maybe even later as her love interest? Nonetheless, the pilot did not end up getting picked up by NBC past that stage. The show never made it on air. Sorry, Roseanne!

A Tragic Accident

At age sixteen, Barr was in a tragic accident that nearly killed her. She was hit by a car, and supposedly, an ornament on the hood had imprinted and went through her skull. Talk about a tough hit. This accident left her hospitalized for six months and caused some radical changes within her.

A close-up photograph of Roseanne Barr with books lined up on a shelf behind her

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This accident left her with a brain injury that changed her personality almost completely. Sources close to the star say that her personality had changed so drastically that it was like night and day. These wild personality changes were a cause of concern for her family, which is when they decided to have her institutionalized.

Call Me Mom

Roseanne Barr is often known just as a TV mom, but she actually has five kids of her own. The first, Brandi, was given up for adoption just a week after she was born because Barr was concerned she would not be able to support her. When she married her first husband, she had three more – Jessica, Jake, and Jennifer.

Roseanne on the red carpet with her children and Ben Thomas

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She had her final child, Buck, with her third husband. Buck spent time living with her on their family macadamia nut farm in Hawaii. Some of her children had struggles with substance abuse, similar to their mother. Some of them even followed her footsteps into careers in Hollywood. Some things just run in the family!

Where Is She Now?

Despite her extreme fall from grace, Roseanne is no longer found on TV. However, she still shares her opinions on social media when she can or whenever she just wants to stir the pot. When she’s not spinning assorted conspiracy theories, she is posting videos to her YouTube channel narrating her every thought.

Roseanne Barr waving at the camera arriving to an event

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Roseanne is currently living with her partner Johnny Argent on her farm in Hawaii. She seems to be living her best life there, keeping out of the public eye to a certain extent. We hope you’re wearing your sunscreen, Roseanne!