When documentary filmmaker Eric Weinrib set out to follow comedian, actress and self-proclaimed "domestic goddess" Roseanne Barr on her 2012 campaign for president, he figured the whole thing would probably be a goof. So, for that matter, did most people.
"I expected it to be a more satirical campaign — after all, she is a comedian," Weinrib says. "But the longer she ran, the more serious she got. Throughout her career she has often gone beyond people's expectations, and her campaign was no exception."
Running as a fiery populist — first as a candidate for the Green Party nomination and eventually on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket — Barr managed to get on the ballot in three states, earning more than 67,000 votes and ending up in sixth place on Election Day. Now four years later, the story of her improbable outsider bid for the nation's highest office has been chronicled in Weinrib's documentary "Roseanne for President!" in theaters and available on-demand July 1.
On a recent afternoon, Barr, 63 — who lives much of the year on a macadamia nut farm in Hawaii — sat down in her studio in El Segundo, a glass of bourbon in her hand, and reflected on her foray into presidential politics, this year's race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, marijuana legalization and the impending end of the world.
The first thing we see you say in this movie is, "This is not a publicity stunt." Looking back on your run, do you feel like people had a hard time taking you seriously as a candidate for the presidency?
They were idiots. I say in the movie, "It's a bunch of clowns and one comedian and they prefer the clowns." You'd say what people hold in their hearts to be true and they'd go, "Nah."
The citizens of this country don't really get that they could work this stuff to their advantage if they wanted, or they're not ready. I just want people to know what's being done to them. Because I hate stupidity. I want people to see this movie because they should know how it works.
That kind of populist anger you were running on is much more in the forefront in this year's election cycle.
They all ripped off my ...! Bernie [Sanders] ripped my whole ... off, like men do in Hollywood from the day I set foot in here.
Well, to be fair to Bernie, he has been talking about these issues for a long time.
Nobody gave a ...! I knew it was there. I tried to help set it up. Now I see all three of them — Hillary, Bernie and Trump — they're all borrowing heavily from my 2012 campaign.
Like what specific things?
Well, socialism. Like, "Hey, bankers ought to pay back the money they stole — or at least not get a bonus for doing so." As soon as you start getting paid, then Satan's got you, and you're going to burn in that huge hellfire lake for all eternity with Satan right there with that pitchfork in your eyeball.
On the one hand, you talk optimistically about the people taking back the system and bringing about revolutionary change. But you also have predicted a few times that the world is about to end.
Yeah, well, it's always two years ahead of now. I know that.
So the world will end in 2018?
Yeah. I do believe we're on the edge of extinction and there's very little if any hope that we'll live through this .... It just seems so finite. They say it's going to be a meteor that takes us out. Well, I say let's party like it's 1999.
Were you always politically engaged from a young age?
Of course. I think I'm Joan of Arc reincarnated into an old, fat Jewish woman. I think I'm a leader. I was always politically aware because my family were socialists. They had come from Russia and Lithuania so they were victims of horrors. They were very opinionated politically. They really raked people over the coals. And I just grew up with that.
I'm completely cynical. But I think that people's love for each other could possibly turn things around. If we were loving each other enough, I think the mental waves would go out there and explode the meteor. Our mental power is millions of times bigger than we think.
So I'm not a cynic at all, am I? What am I? [shrugs] Heavily medicated.
You said in an interview recently that "we would be so lucky if Trump won because then it wouldn't be Hillary."
No, I didn't. That's not what I said at all. I said Hillary so controls the media — the Saudis own her and they own the media too, so figure it out. If Trump won, that would mean that there was freedom from being owned by Saudi Arabian media, that there was a possible way to break through this .... And we would all be lucky if there were a way to break through the stranglehold of foreign donors on our own country.
So you think voting for Trump is the lesser of two evils?
No, I think it should be Trump and Hillary. I think they should run together and they should say, "We're going to be for all the ... we say and we're going to get some ... done." They should run together to save our country, because it needs saving. People are hurting real bad. Why can't they put their heads together?
But assuming that doesn't happen, who are you supporting?
Myself, because I'm the only one with half a … brain! What else can I do? I'm writing myself in. If Trump and Hillary would join up to be my co-vice presidents, that would be great. Because I know how to fix .... I've lived a long time. I ran a successful TV show. I know how to produce stories for the public that the public likes and that don't dumb them down, that lift them up.
Trump is doing what I said I would do in 2013. When everybody was coming to me and saying, "You need to run again in 2016," I said the only way I would run again is as a Republican. Because that party is finished. It's up for grabs. And he's proof of it.
He's more progressive than Hillary. He's got to please all those people writing that platform, but he's left enough clues that when he gets in there, he'll get everybody working together to solve problems.
It sounds like you think he's really smart.
He's brilliant. Even Michael Moore says so.
The one thing I've always said about Hillary, though — and I've met her and had dinner with her and such — is she does listen. Because women listen better than men. Men can't hear a thing over themselves talking. But Hillary does listen.
I think she's a ballsy woman, brave in a lot of ways. She'll look something in the eye and name it — unless she's getting money not to. I went to one of those inaugurations. She's very charming, and Bill is hot as hell. He's like Mick Jagger.
Recreational marijuana use will be on the ballot California this year, which is something you've advocated for a long time. You've said you want to open your own dispensary.
I'm trying to, but if it's not meant to be it won't be. It might be better for me to just do more simple, small stuff, like inventing my own strain. I'm trying to perfect the weed butter. I'm doing a [cannabis] cooking show here on my YouTube channel.
I think [legalization] is going to go everywhere. There's been some test cases and it's all been positive. It's about time. I think it's a great medicine and it really helps people.
Do you think your outspokenness about politics has hurt your career in Hollywood, that it makes some people scared to work with you?
Oh, no, they hate me anyway. I'm a troublemaker. I can't help it. I'm in my 60s and, like most people in my generation, I want to do what I want to do. I'm not going to listen to some snot-nosed 29-year-old ... trying to tell me what's funny.
Everything gets remade and sequel-ized these days. Do you ever think about trying to bring "Roseanne" back in some way?
They talk to me about it all the time. But I'm so old. I need to go to bed at 9. I don't think I have the energy for it. If I had a little more energy, I'd be like, "Yeah, I want to do it one more time." But it's a lot of work. It would just bury me. I'm like, "Can I just do six episodes?"
I am talking to people about doing six episodes. [smiles] But I'm holding out for nudity.