Roseanne Barr has been breaking barriers and pissing people off since before she was a household name, but she was a known quantity in my household, and our family wore a hole through the VHS tape of her 1987 HBO comedy special, then regularly watched her eponymous sitcom Roseanne (1988–1997) — which featured gay characters and the first televised lesbian kiss.
Born in Salt Lake City, Roseanne was raised — rather uniquely — as both Jewish and Mormon, and she has a gay brother and a lesbian sister. Though she’s as funny as ever and was recently in talks for a sitcom, Roseanne has become much more politically active, taking both right-wingers and Democrats to task on economics, whistle-blowing, and genetically modified foods. She ran for president on the Peace and Freedom ticket and came in sixth place with 67,448 votes in the general election. And she’s a force of nature on Twitter; the day I caught her she had just fired off this gem: “spam blocking all repiglican dim wits who suck brown bankster bungholes. #FUN”
Our July 23, 2013, conversation is reproduced here. It is abridged, but no spelling or grammar errors have been corrected. The full conversation is public and available on Twitter.
@matbreen Hi! Can I interview you over Twitter — on which you’re a rockstar — for The Advocate? I’m the editor-in-chief… and I’m from SLC
@TheRealRoseanne yay slc-we are taking over the world!
@TheRealRoseanne whenever I feel down, I think of SLC-where we all learned that we can change the world if we want to
@matbreen OK, this medium is great/peculiar, so apologies in advance for nature of short questions.
@matbreen Speaking of SLC, LDS are trying to shed antigay image. Would church really change it’s stripes on LGBTs? A revelation?
@TheRealRoseanne my sister saw mormon women marching for marriage equality in the sf pride parade! we do have influence, power 2 change minds.
@matbreen Yes, definitely progress. Think it’s possible at the institutional level too? Or is that too high a bar for LDS leaders?
@TheRealRoseanne actually- i believe the change came from inside the church-which has many gay priests in it-I give credit to @TroyWilliamsSLC
@TheRealRoseanne the church leaders realized they could no longer support the oppression of their own gay children-the word got out-we put it there
@TheRealRoseanne we put the word out that the Mormon church kicks it’s own gay children out on2 the streets-that hurt their “family friendly” image
@TheRealRoseanne I give power to the gay mormons who have made themselves known-who came forward-that’s how things change.
@TheRealRoseanne I also credit Marie Osmond-she has become a great activist w/i the church.
@matbreen You were 6th in prez election. Congrats! What did being a candidate teach you about the process, your most pressing issues?
@TheRealRoseanne I made a movie about american politics by running for office-what I learned: 2000 informed ppl who UNITE can change anything.
@TheRealRoseanne not out yet-still editing
@TheRealRoseanne I also learned that ppl think opposing something is more powerful than supporting something, and that is incorrect & backwards.
@matbreen What’s the status of new TV project? Your sitcom changed TV. Are any old struggles from making old show reappearing?
@TheRealRoseanne I’m doing porn now. It’s difficult, but I persist.
@TheRealRoseanne there’s NO way2 control ur writing-but,-the 10/90 seems 2 b the newest business strategy that could allow4 more artistic controls
@matbreen “Roseanne” was unique, and an exception historically. Are class issues and popular TV incompatible?
@TheRealRoseanne in some ways they r-but in other ways they aren’t-it all depends on who is writing & who watches-
@TheRealRoseanne to speak about class in america is to break the greatest taboo.
@matbreen Heard you talk about celebs in Hollywood who quietly thank you for speaking out on issues.
@TheRealRoseanne not quietly-covertly and with great trepidation.
@matbreen Can anything break thru Hollywood self-censorship?
@TheRealRoseanne it’s NOT self censorship-it’s corporate.
@matbreen What would it take to overcome corporate suppression?
@TheRealRoseanne changing a few minds
@matbreen Seems like merging of disparate progressive interests might be a solution. I see some evidence of that. Do you?
@TheRealRoseanne I keep trying to make that point, as Harvey Milk (my political idol) did-when progressives & labor join-it’s a done deal.
@matbreen You’ve said first to speak out is vilified. Do you feel you’ve been vilified, or blacklisted?
@matbreen I feel like you really rely on and relish your outsider perspective…
@TheRealRoseanne most definitely i do-it’s a continual thing-
@TheRealRoseanne I have no choice-it’s the way I am.
@matbreen And if you want to talk some trash, I’d love to know what you thought of the Geraldo nudie tweet.
@TheRealRoseanne he needs a head transplant-drunk old fucker