Friday, August 3, 2007

DVD Review: Roseanne Barr: Blonde and Bitchin'

Roseanne is back and so is her last name. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not only a Roseanne Barr fan, but I think it’s safe to say that she is the reason I got into standup comedy to begin with. Growing up a chubby, little trailer trash girl, I never really saw myself in the comedians of my youth until Roseanne’s first appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Sure, I LOVED standup comedy, but didn’t really believe I could do it until that night. That being said, that is not a guarantee that I would like the Blonde and Bitchin’ DVD, since I also worship George Carlin and haven’t liked a damn thing he’s done in over ten years. But, I’m happy to say that Yes, I liked it.

Blonde and Bitchin’ was filmed in the Comedy Store Main Room in Hollywood, where Roseanne got her first big break. This room holds about 300 people, and I like the intimate feeling of a comedy DVD being filmed in a club versus a stadium. It’s the way comedy is supposed to be. I’ve performed in this room myself, which is irrelevant, but you have no idea how hard it is for me to write an entire review that is not all about ME.

I like Roseanne’s conversational style and the fact that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Her first words are, “Does my fat ass make my ass look too fat?” And then she calls herself a "has been". Let’s face it; Roseanne is so rich and famous that she could take herself very seriously if she chose to. It’s been a long time since she’s lived in a trailer or been poor or unknown. And yet, she comes across with humility and vulnerability, which if you have read any of my previous writings, you know I feel is very important in standup comedy.

However, you can tell that Roseanne is used to people coming to see HER, and not just going out for comedy in general. If she were not the main attraction, she could easily lose the crowd with her lazy timing and long way around the jokes. In most comedy shows (less in comedy clubs than bars and other venues), it’s a lot like work just to get the audience to shut up, face forward, and pay attention. If you don’t grab the shit out of them with snappy timing and quick punches, they will simply go back to their conversations, pool game, or pinball machine. Especially since the picture on the pinball machine is always some big- breasted hot chick in skimpy clothing. That’s hard to compete with, believe me.

I think that the best comics not only disclose intimate parts of themselves, which Roseanne does (she tells us her weight for God’s sake which I wouldn’t tell you under sodium pentothal), but that they also use the art of standup comedy to process their lives and the world around them, as any artist would do. Roseanne covers a wide range of subjects in this hour of comedy. “This whole century blows,” she says.

She reminisces about her daughter finding her pot stash. She says, “Mommy is old enough and successful enough to have earned the right to be drunk and on drugs and a raving fucking maniac if she chooses,” and I agree! She says she is sick of her kids complaining that she was never around when they were growing up. “Can you imagine how fucked up your lives would be if I had taken an interest in them?” Regarding getting older she complains, “I’m wet where I’m supposed to be dry and dry where I’m supposed to be wet.”

She also looks at the world. “I hate the president. I hate the president. I hate the president. Is it still legal to say that? Who cares if our kids can read if our military is number one?” she asks sarcastically. “The world is our bitch and we are going to bust a cap in her ass!” Roseanne is political without necessarily talking politics, and then she comes at politics straight on. “How did they get working people to vote Republican? That’s like getting chickens to vote for Colonel Sanders.” She also addresses religion, saying that she once called Pat Robertson the anti-Christ, but then she was sued by the anti-Christ anti-defamation league.

There are a few things on Blonde and Bitchin’ that I wasn’t crazy about. At one point, she reads cards that have written on them questions that may or may not have actually been asked by the audience. Although her answers are very funny, as a standup purist I hate the use of any props and I feel that this disrupts the flow of the jokes. I would have rather seen just 45 minutes of pure standup, than an hour that contained props.

At the end, she dances around in nothing but a leotard and then sings. The first time I saw this, I flat-out hated it. But, after watching the DVD again, I understand it a little better. She says that her two biggest fears are being seen in her underwear and singing in public. I believe that a comic’s job is to face fears and personal tragedy before a crowd. In fact, I tell my comedy students to go home and write a joke about the most painful embarrassing thing that they would die if anyone in the world ever found out and then to go on stage and tell 200 people. If we can make fun of it, we can transcend it, and maybe we can help the audience face something that has been owning them, as well.

All and all, I would definitely recommend that you check out Blonde and Bitchin’. I think it is a very funny, earnest piece of quality workmanship that will remind you why we all love standup comedy to begin with. And why we all loved the Roseanne show. Roseanne is us; she is Everyman. Sure, now she’s a famous multi-millionaire that lives in a big mansion in Brentwood. But, even if it’s not true, you can somehow believe that she still cleans her own toilet. And that is comforting.

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