HBO Comedy Hour: Roseanne Barr Live From Trump Castle

Roseanne Barr Live From Trump Castle is less Barr’s return to stand-up comedy than her debut as a performance artist: Getting laughs is not as important as self-expression. Over the course of this particularly odd hour, the brazen sitcom queen sings many songs, including ”To Sir With Love” and Carl Douglas’ immortal 1974 disco hit ”Kung Fu Fighting.” She sings in an exaggerated, braying whine that makes it clear — in case we didn’t get it when she sang the national anthem last summer — that she’s joking. Barr also makes repeated mention of ”my awakening political consciousness,” which includes many unprintable remarks about the sexual oppression of women by men. This section reaches a high point when she yells exultantly, ”I was reading a book about female serial killers and how they kill all these men — all riiiight! Talk about taking control of your life!”

Then there’s Tom Arnold, ”my new husband, my second husband, my favorite husband to date,” as Barr describes him. Arnold does a solo stand-up act whose material is not funny, just wanly, vaguely dirty. He gets a cowriting credit on this show, and it’s interesting that Barr’s least funny, most impersonal jokes have the same rhythm and hostile attitude as Arnold’s entire act.

The most unsettling moment occurs when Barr announces she’ll do some of her old material, ”the jokes that made me what I am today.” The Trump Castle crowd goes wild, but then Arnold appears with a snare drum and cymbal; whenever Barr recites a punch line, he gives it a clanging rimshot, as if to say, ”You like this corny old stuff? We hate it.” And you, by extension. This is the exact opposite of what Barr’s television show and her print interviews usually suggest.

Live from Trump Castle has the feeling of a lark that turned nasty. It’s fascinating, but it’s not very funny. C+

HBO Comedy Hour: Roseanne Barr Live From Trump Castle
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