How Jenny Pentland survived being Roseanne’s daughter.
I wanted to write about love for Valentine’s Day. And although Jenny Pentland’s This Will Be Funny Later isn’t a romance, it is a story about both heart and heartbreak. In it, she shares the intimate account of how she struggled in the celebrity shadow of her mother, Roseanne Barr, but eventually outwitted her demons and learned to love herself.
“My life is a sitcom,” she writes at the beginning of the memoir. Although the Pentlands were a normal middle-class family living in Colorado when Roseanne first discovered her talent as a comedian, her career soon took off and landed her a hit sitcom. Jenny’s tween and teen years played out on television in “Roseanne.”
She recounts how the show drew its content from true events in the Pentlands’ life. But Jenny and sister Jessica’s TV counterparts “were lightweight, PG versions of us with no complicated backstories…They suffered no PTSD or mental illness in the form of anxiety disorders. Neither of them had been indoctrinated into a cult, OD’d, or spent a year or more in a private mental health facility.”
By the end of the series, the storyline “looked like a parallel-reality version of what would have happened to us had the show never existed.”
Once the family moved from Denver to L.A., they tried to maintain a normal life, but celebrity mania quickly took over. Roseanne and Bill (the kids’ dad and the inspiration for Dan Conner) understood that their kids needed more structure and shelter from Hollywood. They agreed to send them to private and/or boarding schools and “teen help” programs. At 10 years old, Jenny went to “fat camp” with 11-year-old Jessica and 7-year-old Jake.
As Jenny’s behavior deteriorated, her parents had her committed to multiple psychiatric hospitals and behavioral institutions, including an aggressive 52-day wilderness-survival program. Men she refers to as “bounty hunters” would magically appear in her bedroom, kidnapping her (per her parents’ instructions) and offloading her at the program du jour. Jenny became an expert at filling a pee cup and completing intake questionnaires.
Read the rest of my article at Washington Independent Review of Books.