TV Writer's 1990s Gaffe Is Legend. He Doesn't Mind

'Vulture' digs into the 1990s tale of a 'Roseanne' writer who didn't know who Jackie was
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2023 9:35 AM CDT
TV Writer's 1990s Gaffe Is Legend. He Doesn't Mind
In this image released by ABC, Roseanne Barr, left, and John Goodman appear in a scene from the reboot of "Roseanne."   (Adam Rose/ABC via AP, File)

Listen carefully, and you might hear the phrase "Who Jackie?" crop up in a sitcom every now and then. That's because the line has become an inside joke, one at the heart of what Joe Berkowitz at Vulture calls "the greatest writers' room story ever." As legend has it, a writer on Roseanne back in the mid-1990s pitched a joke that involved Roseanne having a twin sister. When others pointed out that Roseanne already had a sister, played by Laurie Metcalf, the writer responded, "Who Jackie?" The joke is that, somehow, a writer on a well-established show was unaware of a major character on said show. "Comedy writers have been telling the 'Who Jackie' story in their offices, at table reads, and in Sweetgreens for nearly 30 years," writes Berkowitz, and it seems to get embellished in every retelling. But how true is it? Berkowitz interviews 12 former Roseanne writers and 20 others to find out.

He not only identifies the writer who supposedly uttered the line but interviews him. David Tyree, now 75, was a standup comic brought in as a writer for the show's eighth season. He said he spoke the line, or something close to it, after hearing other writers mention Jackie in their pitches. "I was totally ignorant of the characters," he admits to Berkowitz. The reason? He says Roseanne Barr had promised to bring him in as a writer years earlier but failed to do so, and he hadn't watched the show out of spite. For years, Tyree had no idea the story became legend. Today, his only regret is that more people who tell it don't name him. "Everybody who’s gotten bad publicity, their career goes up," he says. "My career’s over, but I’m just sayin’: It would be nice to know that I was the one that didn’t know who Jackie was.” The full story is well worth a read. (Or read other longform stories.)

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