A sitcom star who has himself faced backlash for expressing his personal views has publicly addressed the cancellation of Roseanne Barr’s hit ABC series after a Twitter rant many perceived as racist.
In comments to reporters at the 2018 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour earlier this week, comedian Tim Allen said he did not recognize the intolerance apparently on display in Barr’s tweets.
“You know, I go way back with Rosie and that’s not the Roseanne I know,” he said.
The 65-year-old, whose own canceled ABC series was revived in a deal with Fox this year, said the fallout over Barr’s comments forced him to address the issue with a variety of people, including his mother.
“And she goes, ‘What did she mean by all that?'” Allen said. “And I said, ‘I don’t know.'”
He went on to describe Barr as among the “most diverse and tolerant” women he has ever known.
“So whatever got in her head isn’t the Roseanne I know,” he said.
Beyond the impact on Barr’s career, Allen shared his thoughts about what he believes is an increasingly volatile environment, especially for those tasked with making audiences laugh.
He called it a “very icy time” for comedians, unlike anything he has seen in nearly four decades in the industry.
“Like Lenny Bruce said at the Purple Onion: ‘We’ve gone backwards,'” Allen said. “There’s things you can’t say, things you shouldn’t say, and I said, ‘Who makes up these rules?'”
Judging a comedian on one statement or joke, even a potentially offensive one, is a scary precedent for a comedian like Allen.
“As a stand-up comic, it’s a very dangerous position for me to be in because I like pushing buttons and we’re all very sensitive,” he said.
In reaction to audiences’ changing sensibilities, Allen said he has made the new unwritten rules of comedy a part of his act.
“I visualize to the audience and I tell them ahead of time, I’m going to be saying these things and I know they’re offensive to you,” he said. “Let’s decide why they’re offensive and who’s making that decision. I have a whole bit about PC correct and what it is.”
Even with his disclaimer, he complained that some critics seem determined to create controversy.
“I understand where we are, and we’ve made some adjustments and I said I like pushing stuff and making everybody laugh on stage, but you take stuff I said out of context? We were laughing about this and it’s not even funny,” he said.
Bringing the topic back to Barr, Allen reiterated that her tweets did not reflect the person he knew.
“Whatever came out of that, whatever she said by that, she’s inclusive and tolerant,” he said.
While he called the situation “unfortunate,” Allen would not publicly denounce the network’s decision to pull the plug on “Roseanne.”
“They had to do what they had to do, and that’s their decision,” he said. “I’m just on the other side. I know Barr, and she’s just not that person.”
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