"Look what Sean Hannity gave me, an e-cigarette!"
Roseanne Barr, in a silky, psychedelic patterned blouse, flashed a crooked smile at the crowd gathered in the dim, cramped back room of Stand Up NY, a comedy bar on the Upper West Side. A vodka cocktail in the hand opposite the e-cig, she settled into her seat and looked expectantly at the approximately 100 faces peering back at her.
The disgraced actress had driven directly from her interview with Sean Hannity—Fox News golden boy and personal confidante to President Trump—to speak with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an old friend of 20 years, as he reminded the crowd several times. The interview, which was being taped for Boteach's podcast, was her first live public appearance since that racist tweet taking aim at Valerie Jarrett, a former advisor to President Obama who is black. Barr drew a comparison between Jarrett and the Planet of the Apes, causing ABC to cancel the second season of her eponymous sitcom.
Following last week's off-the-rails explanation of the tweet, in which Barr had screeched in ear-piercing tones, "I thought the b— was white!", the anticipation of another viral shrieking moment was high.
Of course, the press descended on the venue. Don't tell the fire marshal, but the room definitely exceeded max capacity as journalists, photographers, and videographers rubbed sweaty shoulders in order to get the perfect shot of the 66-year-old actress with a Twitter trigger finger (matched only by the president's) taking long drags of her e-cig. A burly-looking security guard flanked the stage, while his partner—equally broad-shouldered and tall—did his best to dodge and weave through the itty-bitty venue in search of would-be hecklers.
Waiters and the club's owner, Dani Zoldan, also maneuvered about the floor (no easy feat, as chairs were packed three rows deep), while disgruntled press balked about them "blocking the shot," which in turn caused at least one paying, understandably peeved customer to turn around and face a pair of Buzzfeed reporters: "Did they not give you guys enough seats?"
If the press accounted for about 50 percent of the spectators in the steamy, un-airconditioned room, the other 50 percent was divided among staff, security, and patrons who not only paid for the $25 ticket, but also accepted the venue's two-drink minimum ($18), which brought the total cost of their experience to almost $40. So who were these people shelling out their hard-earned cash on a Thursday evening in the liberal-leaning city of New York to see one of the most controversial conservative comedians in Hollywood?
An elderly Jewish woman sat beside me with her son, who wore a yarmulke, and his partner. She wondered aloud, "What are we doing here? Are we here to forgive her?" She shrugged her shoulders.
Her son, who first saw the talk advertised on Facebook, added that he was a longtime fan of both Barr and Boteach. "I don't know," he said in reply to his mother's question, looking visibly antsy by the presence of the press. "I've just always liked them." He added that he had no problem acquiring three last-minute tickets to the show, which, not unexpectedly, did not appear to be sold out.
The aforementioned customer, frustrated over the press's looming presence, seemed a little more skeptical of Barr's intentions. When Barr droned on about apologies—"I always accept apologies, because I want the same to be done for me"—she muttered with heavy exasperation under her breath, "but it has to be sincere."
Across the room sat a family of Trump supporters, who whooped and hollered anytime Barr brought up her political leanings. At one point, when she recalled mocking her liberal daughters for their tears following Trump's win back in 2016 ("nee-ner nee-ner nee-ner," she reminisced), the concentrated group of about 10 people broke out into raucous laughter, with a few thunderous claps, while the rest of the room sat in silence. "We love you Roseanne!" yelled one fan after she thanked them for their support.
As for her message, Barr echoed the talking points she had spouted in her Hannity appearance—essentially giving a non-apology apology. "I recognize that [Valerie Jarrett] thinks I wronged her," she told Boteach. "I’m sorry that anyone thought that that was a racist and not a political tweet, because it was in fact a political tweet and not a racist tweet whatsoever. I can talk about it 'til I’m blue in the face and they’re never going to accept it, and I accept that."
Though she was once a vocal member of "the left," she added, "All my friends said, your mistake was to apologize to the left because when they see blood in the water, they’re going to come until you’re dead.”