Roseanne Barr is the poster child for Cancel Culture, a reality that cuts both ways.
Hollywood crushed Barr’s “Roseanne” reboot following her crude 2018 Tweet against Valerie Jarrett. That cancellation also endeared her to those exhausted by woke overreach and eager for voices embracing Donald Trump’s base.
AKA … MAGA Nation.
Barr honors that reality in her Fox Nation comeback special. “Roseanne Barr: Cancel This!” finds the sitcom legend attacking “libtards,” mocking pandemic overreach and declaring her pronouns are “kiss my a**.”
What’s missing? The comic spark that made Barr’s “domestic goddess” stick so refreshing at the dawn of her career. “Cancel This!” may be cathartic for both Barr and her fans, but it’s hardly prime-time comedy.
Barr opens the hour-long set by sharing what happened with the Tweet Heard ‘Round the World. She says a lack of sleep, combined with a cocktail of Ambien and psychotropic drugs, made her call Obama’s senior White House advisor a cross between the Muslim Brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes.”
And, once again, Barr says of the light-skinned Jarrett, “I thought the b***** was white.”
It’s a rambling look at the worst chapter in her professional life, including a dig at late-night comics who dressed in blackface but kept collecting huge network checks. It’s both a great reference and a missed opportunity, one of many in the special.
Barr eventually turns the special into a conventional stand-up affair. That’s when the trouble begins.
Barr repeatedly glances down at what appears to be a monitor at the foot of the stage, apparently to keep track of her material.
The 70-year-old hasn’t performed since a brief 2019 tour, so the cheat sheet approach is forgivable. What’s less so is the weakness of the gags.
Barr leans into overt, clapter-style moments, from assaulting vaccine overreach to mocking p***y-hat wearing feminists.
She’s on more firm ground when she summons the “What Is a Woman?” cultural debate, complete with a few choice answers.
“A woman is someone who cleans up everyone else’s s***,” she cries.
“I’m not going to let them have the last word. Not on me! I’ll be fighting in my Depends…I’m never going to give up!” ~ Roseanne Barr, on fighting against cancel culture in her new @FoxNation stand-up comedy special, “Cancel This.” pic.twitter.com/8sVALG4WT1
— Shannon Fisher (@MsShannonFisher) February 13, 2023
Roseanne Barr circa 2023 echoes the MAGA mindset in more ways than one. She’s pro-marijuana, for example. She harbors no ill will for gay people, with one shout-out to the LGBTQ crowd drawing hearty applause.
It’s Trump-style populism, so often misunderstood or savaged in the press.
Her socialist leanings (she once ran for the White House as a Green Party candidate) wash over a distrust for the new, approved narratives.
Much of “Cancel This!” is deeply confessional. Barr shares painful stories of being an overweight teen and how her parents berated her for being heavyset. Some of the more honest reveals provide the best comic moments.
She decries how today’s parents are too soft on their children, and why that’s harmful to society.
“Who else has teenagers in their 50s?” she asks, easily the special’s best line. More, please.
Other gags felt too easy, beneath a comic of her considerable legacy. She recalls growing up as a Jewish girl in Mormon Central — Salt Lake City, Utah.
“We stuck out like sore thumbs. We only had one mother.”
Later, she cracked about living in Hawaii.
“It’s a short trip from ‘Aloha’ to a**hole.” Groan.
The most maddening part of her Fox Nation comeback?
You don’t have to squint to see Barr’s unique worldview, a blue-collar vibe that cuts through the media din. Every time Barr inches closer to that reality, an updated version of her old self, she pivots to a weaker gag.
Barr vowed to smite Cancel Culture in the special, but what she says proves scattershot and ineffective. In a way, she’s like Trump himself, a figure brave enough to pinpoint cultural poisons, like the corrupt press, without the precision needed to damage them.
What Barr needs is to hit the road again, to rekindle the old flames and play to crowds less eager to cheer her every wisecrack.
Is such a tour even possible? Ask Louis CK.
The disgraced comic, whose real-world actions were far more cancel-worthy than a single Tweet, carved out his guerrilla comeback by relying on his chops and hardcore fans.
Barr could do the same. First, though, she needs to knock the professional rust off and realize not every crowd will cheer her MAGA applause lines.