At 5:11 the other morning, even before she brushed her teeth or took a leak, Roseanne Barr rolled over in bed, grabbed her laptop, balanced it on her rather substantial belly and began reading her Twitter news feed, looking for the kind of stuff that interests a woman like her — “rape culture in all its gluttony,” instances of government-inspired mind control, examples of the patriarchy run amok, billionaire pedophiles and the like. She does this every day. “It gets me really, really depressed,” she says, “but I’m addicted to Twitter and I sleep with my laptop and I apparently can’t function unless I’m depressed.” Once fully and suitably depressed, she then rises from her bed and goes about the business of being both who she once was — the world-famous, loudmouthed genius creator and star of the blue-collar sitcom Roseanne — and who she is today. At the age of 60, she’s the owner of a macadamia-nut farm in Hawaii, a stand-up comedian right now appearing at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, and a self-described “fucking lazy old bag who mostly lays around, eats, sleeps and tweets” and deports herself like the cool, slightly lunatic, f-bomb-dropping grandma we all wish we had. And without whom many of the more sordid details of the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case, in which two high school football stars allegedly raped a passed-out 16-year-old girl, while their friends looked on taking pictures — may never have come to light.
A few hours later, she’s inside Winchell’s Pub & Grill, slurping down cups of coffee while munching on a breakfast burrito, please hold the meat. Her hips bother her, and she walks with a shambling limp, but overall she looks like she always has, and her voice still has that classic Roseanne low-rent whine to it. But back to Steubenville, and how she came to be so involved.
“Well,” she says, “I always tweet about pedos, sexual crimes and assaults and shit, so the Anonymous kids sent me all these links to the case, and the more I read, the more it drew me in. I wanted it looked at. I wanted to go, ‘Here’s a fucking mirror, take a goddamned gander.'”
Roseanne is silent for a moment. She takes a lot on, and it creates a lot of stress. She’s bitten the nail of her right ring finger halfway down the quick. Last year, she ran for president of the United States, on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket, wound up in sixth place, with 67,315 votes, and came away from the experience thoroughly chilled. “I learned that the fastest way to get arrested and sent to Guantánamo Bay is to run for president and say you want to get rid of the Federal Reserve,” she says, and explains no further. Instead, she talks about everything else that is pissing her off these days, which is pretty much a mixed bag of common sense and paranoia. She believes that Alex Jones, Piers Morgan, Obama and just about everyone else in power works for “the same friggin’ four guys,” some Illuminati-type agency composed of Goldman Sachs head honchos, the European and Saudi royal families, and so on. “They mind-control everybody,” she says, wagging her fork in the air.
She once tweeted, “Most billionaires r violent pedophiles & consumers of violent pedo porn.” Where did she come up with that? “It came from fact,” she says. “I long ago made the connection that a financial criminal is not that different than any other kind of degenerate. They always have to keep going, they want bigger and bigger thrills. Then they spread their ass cheeks and rub it right in our faces and they get a goddamned bonus. It’s so fucking nuts. I mean, I don’t see government anymore. I just see pedophile cults.” She smiles. “That’s my view of things. Now, enjoy your breakfast.”
OK, so America’s grandma is a little off her beam. On the plus side, she’s a supporter of the lost art of darning socks (“I want to show you!”), is happy to display iPhone pictures of her five grandchildren (“Oh, and look, here’s a picture of a neighbor child with six toes!”) and likes nothing more than an evening spent watching “forensic TV shows about grisly murders” (or as writing partner and boyfriend Johnny Argent, 63, says, “We don’t have a day without dental records, shallow graves and suicide notes”). And, of course, like grandmas everywhere, she’s got a past that her grandkids probably don’t want to hear about, including a terrible childhood in Salt Lake City (“shocking, traumatic things happened to me. . .”), a string of ex-husbands and a case of multiple personality disorder (“It was good old, corn-fed multiple personality disorder,” now cured, thanks to 16 years of psychiatric help). So, Grandma’s got baggage.
And Grandma’s angry, especially when it comes to anyone who would try to defend the alleged Steubenville rapists. “You guys just fucking have your little bonfire and blame the girl,” she says, balling up her fists. “But you’re not going to fucking win. At some point, stupid hits a wall and explodes. I’ve waited a lifetime to see it happen. And it will. It’s happening already. Men will become worker bees and that’s it.”
She glares at the future worker bee sitting across from her right now, then shamble-walks outside into an awfully brilliant day. Much later, she goes onstage at the Tropicana and tells about 250 jokes, none of them containing even a hint of the coming apocalypse for men. It’s funny middle-of-the-road stuff, with jokes about “restless vagina syndrome” and “the Viagra.” At one point, she’d thought about ending the show by saying, “I’m not going to bullshit you. This is the end of the world. We’re all fucking dead meat. There is no hope.” Instead, tonight, she says, “I’d just like to say I do wish you a long life and a happy time here in Las Vegas,” to thunderous applause, from all of Grandma’s innocents who have no idea what’s really coming their way.