Roseanne vs. college humor

April 13, 1996|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Roseanne says one of the reasons she decided to produce a sketch comedy show for Rupert Murdoch's Fox network is that she's "sick of white-guy college humor," which she feels typifies "Saturday Night Live" on NBC.

"You know, that whole sensibility that came out of the '70s with comedians like Steve Martin," she said in a telephone press conference this week.

"It's some guy standing up there smugly telling you about how cool he is."

That, says Roseanne, is what her "Saturday Night Special," which premieres at 11 tonight on WBFF (Channel 45 for a six-week trial run) will not be.

As to what it will be, Roseanne describes it as "Laugh-In meets MTV a whole lot of stuff mashed in real fast slash-and-burn, L.A.-style."

When asked if she could clarify a bit, she said, "I want it to be pushing the envelope, edgy. I want it to have a lot of women."

Until air time, we will have to take her word as to what kind of edge "Saturday Night Special" does or does not have, because Fox appears to have made the pilot available for preview only to "TV Guide" -- which, like Fox, is owned by Rupert Murdoch. The Sun, at any rate, was told the show was not available.

But the show does have some talented women -- both in the regular cast and as guests tonight. In addition to Roseanne, who will perform as well as produce, tonight's show features Sharon Stone and Melissa Etheridge as guests. The cast includes Lauren Kightlinger ("Roseanne"), Kathy Griffin ("Ellen") and Jennifer Coolidge ("She TV").

The male guests tonight are Eric Idle and Scott Wolf ("Party of Five"). Among the guys in the regular cast is Warren Hutcherson, a comedian from Baltimore.

Distinctions based on gender are important to Roseanne, who seems to understand the ways in which taste varies based on gender, race, class and other factors in the history of each performer, producer and audience member.

"Comedy varies person to person," she said. 'But, overall, I think you know there's definitely a difference between the male and female sensibility on comedy. I know there's a difference between what I think is funny and what every guy in the world thinks is funny -- every guy out here in Hollywood anyway. But there's a whole politic involved that's more complicated and goes beyond just men and women."

Despite the success of her ABC sitcom, Roseanne says, women's roles and images "have gone totally backward" in recent years.

"It's not just me and my character, but there were other strong women like Murphy Brown," she said. "Now it's just a bunch of sex addicts with big hair."

Roseanne says the reason for that is men still mainly control the images -- but not on "Saturday Night Special."

"On our show, it's great because there are these women who are writing their own stuff and performing it.

"Once you stop censoring women or giving them stuff that guys write for them, it's going to really change. At least, it's funnier anyway."

Pub Date: 4/13/96

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