When Comedy Central announced that Roseanne would be the target of honor for this year's celebrity roast, her ex-husband Tom Arnold said that he wanted no part of it, and would not participate even if asked.
The couple were a tabloid favorite during their stormy four-year marriage, engaging in outrageous stunts and a war against TV critics. But they divorced in 1994 amid charges of abuse and affairs. Roseanne later cited the negativity surrounding Arnold for damaging her career for several years following the end of her groundbreaking sitcom "Roseanne" in 1997.
So it was not surprising when the packed audience at the Hollywood Palladium for Saturday's taping of Comedy Central's "Roast of Roseanne" collectively gasped when roastmaster Jane Lynch announced a "last-minute" guest, and Arnold appeared on stage. Roseanne's jaw dropped.
"We have not been in the same room for 18 years," Arnold said to his seemingly stunned former spouse before proceeding to make raw, expletive-filled jokes about their marriage, sex life and Roseanne's famously fiery temper. The comedian, who has battled addiction, called their life together "a white-trash Camelot." At one point, he said, "Is this really the best place to do this?"
He then told of how Roseanne had wowed "Tonight Show" host Johnny Carson on her first appearance as a stand-up comic in 1985, instantly launching her meteoric career. He then said, "Roseanne, you were my Johnny Carson," thanking her "from the bottom of my heart" for starting his career.
After he departed, Michael Fishman and Lacy Goranson, who played two of Roseanne's children on "Roseanne," came on stage, saying they had run into Arnold backstage. "I feel like taking a shower," Goranson said.
But during her final monologue, Roseanne called Arnold "funny" and "brave."
Following the roast, Roseanne admitted that Arnold's appearance wasn't a total surprise -- she had reached out to him, feeling it was time to bury the hatchet since they were both in a more positive place in their respective lives. "Onward and upward," she said.
Comedy Central's "Roast of Roseanne," which airs Aug. 12 at 10 p.m., contained much of the crass, sensibility-smashing humor that has characterized previous roasts of Charlie Sheen, David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. The eclectic group of roasters included Ellen Barkin, Carrie Fisher, Wayne Brady, Gilbert Gottfried, Jeffrey Ross and Katey Sagal. Sharon Stone, who had been announced as one of the roasters, pulled out a few days before, citing a movie commitment.
And as usual, there were no comedic boundaries, no matter how sensitive or dangerous. Wearing a Penn State hat and jacket, Ross made jokes about the university's former football assistant Jerry Sandusky, who was recently convicted on multiple counts for sexually abusing children. He also used "The Dark Night Rises" shooting in Colorado as a springboard for an insult aimed at roaster Seth Green.
Roseanne, who is considerably slimmer and more glamorous than in her "Roseanne" days, was continually called fat and a failure at her post-sitcom TV efforts. Fisher was subjected to almost as many barbs as Roseanne as roasters made fun of her drug addictions, weight and acting career decline following "Star Wars."
Despite ocassional groans and boos, the audience seemed to eat it up. When asked after the roast how she felt, Roseanne announced, "Fan-tastic!"