Roseanne Barr has been called raunchy, brash and offensive—but she's also been called original, smart and wickedly funny. The one thing she's never been called? Boring.
It's been more than 20 years since Roseanne and her hit sitcom of the same name became fixtures in American living rooms. From 1988 to 1997, the sharp-tongued Conners tackled everyday family issues with outlandish wit on Roseanne. The show and its producers were fearless, taking on hot button topics like birth control, gay marriage, masturbation and domestic violence.
Offscreen, Roseanne's life was no laughing matter. In 1990, she left her husband of 16 years to begin a roller coaster relationship with Roseanne writer and fellow comedian Tom Arnold.
That same year, Roseanne sang the National Anthem at a San Diego Padres baseball game and offended millions, including President George Bush Sr., who called her rendition "disgraceful." After her infamous performance, Roseanne says she received death threats, and ABC even threatened to pull the plug on her show.
A year later, Roseanne dropped a bombshell when she publicly accused her parents of sexually abusing her as a child.
Although her personal life played out repeatedly in the tabloids, scandals couldn't stop Roseanne, and her show remained a hit. The curtain finally fell on her groundbreaking series in 1997 after nine seasons.
Today, Roseanne is 58 years old and a grandmother of five, but she's still at it—ruffling feathers and as uncensored as ever. She now lives on a nut farm—macadamia nut farm, that is—that sits on 50 acres of land in Hawaii. "I'm a farmer now, and it's fantastic," she says. "My goal is to be totally self-sufficient and grow everything that I eat. There's something about earning your dinner that's cool."
Along with 5,000 macadamia nut trees, Roseanne's farm also has bee hives, goats and a lone black sheep she named Roseanne. Roseanne shares her nuts and honey with her life-partner Johnny, and spends her days farming and writing. "I got the fame and the fortune that I always wanted," she says. "But I have to say what I have now, it's even better."
This is Rosanne's tenth time on The Oprah Show. Twelve years have gone by since her last appearance—and Roseanne tells Oprah she thought there was a reason for that. "I thought maybe you were mad at me because I got mad at you for choosing Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton and I said so," she says. "I thought, 'Uh-oh, she's going to really be pissed off at that.'"
Oprah tells Roseanne not to worry—she isn't mad! "I will assure you, I wasn't even the least bit affected by it," Oprah says. "Lots of people were pissed off at the time, but I really believed and still do believe in Barack Obama—that's why this is America."
However, there is another riff that Roseanne wants to clear up. In 1999, Roseanne had her own talk show and invited Oprah to be a guest. During that show, Roseanne and Oprah had an arm wrestling match for charity. "Okay, I lost," Roseanne says. "But I thought you cheated because I thought I should have won!"
"Why would I cheat about an arm wrestle?" Oprah says. "I thought you were just joking about that. I didn't think you really thought I cheated."
Roseanne says it wasn't until her kids set her straight and she watched the tape again that she realized she lost fair and square. "I'm sorry, I was wrong," she says. "I just wanted to win!"
Roseanne says sex is not that big of a deal. "It shouldn't be the subject of every single television show, the center of everybody's life." she says. "It's not that cool. It really, really isn't. People who have sex and talk about it all the time are not that cool either."
And, whatever you do, don't call Roseanne a cougar! "That makes me want to upchuck," Roseanne jokes. "I say I'm a badger—I kind of hide in the dark when there's any kind of threat of anything sexual coming my way. I'm old, I mean seriously."
Today, Roseanne says she's in a good relationship and has a great connection with her life-partner, Johnny. "He's very private and very shy so I don't want to embarrass him too much," she says. "But he's just a wonderful human being."
Johnny says there's one thing he'd like to get straight about Roseanne. "She's a freakin' sex machine," he says.
All joking aside, Johnny says there isn't enough time in a one-hour show to describe his partner. "There's nobody like Roseanne, and I've told her so many times. When she smiles or laughs, it's like the sun coming out," he says. "She's so spontaneous, so brilliant. Very affectionate and generous."
Looking back on her life, Roseanne says she felt totally unprepared for the fame that came along with a hit sitcom. "I never really had any money or anything, but the very next day, I started getting money," she says.
While living in Hollywood, Roseanne says fame and fortune attracted the wrong type of people into her life. "It takes a really long time to be able to find a decent person out there [who] can advise you or be your friend or be in a relationship with you or hang out with your kids," she says. "You've got to cut through a lot of sharks."
Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Roseanne says she didn't know how to deal with newfound success and nefarious people. "It was just a whole different world in every single kind of way that you can think of," she says. Looking back, Roseanne says she lost her senses at the time. "But getting older, it really works a lot of stuff out for you," she says.
Then, in 1991, Rosanne's personal life made headlines around the world when she announced that she was an incest survivor. Now, she says she wishes she'd gone about it a different way.
"I think it's the worst thing I've ever done," she says. "It's the biggest mistake that I've ever made."
"Calling it incest? Or going public?" Oprah asks.
"Well, both of those things," Roseanne says.
Roseanne says she was in a bad place in her life when she made the accusations about her parents. "I think what happened was that—well, I know what happened was that I was in a very unhappy relationship," she says. "I was prescribed numerous psychiatric drugs. Incredible mixtures of psychiatric drugs to deal with the fact that I had, and still in some ways, have and always will have some mental illness. And the drugs and the combination of drugs that I was given, which were some strong, strong drugs, I totally lost touch with reality in a big, big way."
Roseanne's sister Geraldine says she learned about the incest accusations when she saw Roseanne's story on the cover of People magazine. "I saw the magazine article and dealt with our family and felt that we come from pretty common Jewish folk there in Utah," she says. "I came from parents that loved me. I knew I was loved."
Geraldine says it took a long time to get past the accusations. "Roseanne and I had been estranged for 12 years," she says.
Geraldine says she, her other siblings and her parents went to therapy after Roseanne's allegations went public. "What I learned was that hurt people hurt people and that you have to heal your own hurt so you stop hurting other people," she says.
Roseanne writes in Roseannearchy that she wishes she could take back her choice of words. "I say in the book I was mistaken to use the word incest," she says. "But I can't really think of another word, and when I do, I'll use it."
Although Rosanne says she has regrets, she wants to be clear about her childhood experiences. "I want to say that nobody accuses their parents of abusing them without justification to do that," she says. "I didn't just make it up. A lot of things were true and abusive and horrible things that happened to me that my father did."
Roseanne's father passed away 10 years ago, but she says they had a final goodbye. "My father and I had a conversation where we said the final words we would ever say to each other, and I think that we had come to a new opening," she says. "Had my father lived a little bit longer and had he had the right therapist and people around him, I think we would have had resolution."
As the years have gone by, Roseanne says she's been able to find peace. "I meditate so I know how to find a peaceful place within to be calm and peaceful," she says. "I am very content."