Comedy Works Brings Roseanne Back to Hometown


Photo courtesy of Comedy Works
Photo courtesy of Comedy Works

If I’d been elected in 2012, you’d be sitting here tonight watching the President of the United States tell dick jokes,” Roseanne Barr said, kicking off her long-awaited return to Denver’s comedy scene.

On Sept. 26, Barr completed her two-night stay at Comedy Works’ downtown location. Her set marked two significant anniversaries–36 years of her own career as a stand-up comedian, and 35 years since Comedy Works first launched in Larimer Square. Having moved to Denver when she was 18, Barr performed her first shows on the Comedy Works stage during open mic nights.

Fans might be more familiar with what happened next. After a few stints on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman in the mid ‘80s, Barr launched the show Roseanne in 1988, which debuted to unprecedented success. The show would go on to run for nine seasons; Barr won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her role as Roseanne Conner, and before the show wrapped, she was the second-highest paid woman on television after Oprah Winfrey.

“Since 1992, Roseanne has aired at least three times a day, every day,” Barr said to the Comedy Works crowd. “I appreciate that, because my kids are lazy sons-of-bitches who never worked a day in their lives.”

Roseanne–both the character and the actor–became known for injecting progressive family politics into mainstream media. Roseanne allowed its title character to be sexual, smart, and dominant. It was the third television program to show a woman kissing another woman, and one of the first to include a gay marriage. When the network threatened to not air these episodes, Barr threatened to walk away. She won.

Her Denver set illuminated how autobiographical the famed sitcom was. The act touched on her queer brothers and sisters, the time she caught her daughter with a joint lifted from her own supply, and her struggles with weight. “I must’ve gained and lost over 3,000 pounds in my lifetime,” Barr said.

Given her past experience in politics (Barr finished sixth in 2012 for the presidential race), she was obligated to comment on the current election. Hillary Clinton would gladly “give anyone the shirt off of someone else’s back,” and Republicans found “someone even stupider than [Sarah] Palin” in Donald Trump. As for President Obama’s legacy? “I wouldn’t have killed Bin Laden,” Barr said. “He deserved to suffer. I would have forced him to marry Tom Arnold instead.”

Though her jokes landed throughout, the audience reacted most to those that closely resembled Roseanne’s dysfunctional family dynamics. “My daughter still blames me for everything,” Barr said. “She calls me and cries, ‘My life would have been so different if you were only around when I was a kid.’ I tell her, ‘Shut the fuck up. You’re 46. You have no idea how lucky you are that I didn’t take more of an interest in your childhood.’” Now that she has grandchildren, Barr says she hopes to turn a new leaf and “start giving a fuck.”

After rounding out the night with a few cathartic suicide notes addressed to her mother, daughter, and McDonald’s, she touched on why she’s spent her life in comedy. “Laughter really is the best antidepressant there is,” Barr said. “Thanks for coming out tonight.”

Comedy Works, only a few blocks from campus, is an ideal activity for the overstressed student. The comedy club boasts a wide menu of items that are delivered throughout its shows, and while many shows are 21-and-up, Wednesday sets are open to anyone over the age of 18. Upcoming acts include NEMR (Oct. 12), Craig Robinson (Oct. 20-22), and Kevin Smith (Dec. 11, 12, and 15).

In her own set, Barr was as hilariously bitter and uncensored as ever before. While Coloradans wait once again for her to return to the stage she started on, they’re sure to remember her first joke of the evening: “You’re so honored to have me here tonight.”

Taylor Kirby
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