In her new HBO standup special, Rosie O’Donnell wears her heart on her sleeve -- at times almost literally, as she jokes about falling in love with now estranged wife, Michelle Rounds, and their emotional ups and downs.
Rosie O’Donnell: A Heartfelt Stand Up, which debuts this Saturday, Feb. 14 on HBO, is a hybrid of both confession and comedy as the actress not only details trials of her personal life but also her 2012 heart attack.
Last week, O’Donnell announced that she was leaving The View to focus on her health. The stress of working on the show as well as raising five kids, including a young baby, has been compounded by the fact that she and Rounds separated this past November -- which was also recently revealed. “I'm having a lot of stressful situations in my family life at the moment and having stressful situations in my work environment, so something had to give,” O’Donnell exclusively told ET. “The most easy way to accomplish the lessening of the stress is to not go to work for right now.”
Ultimately the special is light on the comedy -- unless you’re a big fan of O’Donnell, the self-proclaimed “Ellen before she was Ellen” -- and heavy on the confessions, which have new poignancy given last week’s news.
“We fought a lot,” O’Donnell tells the audience at the Live Comedy Club inside the Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack, NY. The 52-year-old actress recalls the turmoil the couple went through in jokes about raising their then-newborn daughter Dakota. Many of the anecdotes revolve around disagreements in handling the young baby, with O’Donnell unrelenting mocking Rounds’ panic after their daughter fell from their bed:
"About two months ago, the baby fell out of the bed -- on Michelle’s side. [Dakota] climbed over her Xanax-filled body and toppled to the ground onto her diaper. The baby was fine, she cried for two minutes, and I put her back in the bed, she was all right. Michelle was hysterical -- ‘Oh my god, what did I do?! It’s my fault. I did it! I did it! I did it! I’m never taking Xanax again. Oh my god! I did it! I did it!’ I’m like, ‘You better take another one now honey, because you’re kind of flipping out about this.'"
But the jokes aren’t all disparaging of Rounds. In fact, O’Donnell recounts the first time they met (“at the Starbucks store-coffee-place”), her surprise at falling in love again after divorcing from her first wife, Kelli Carpenter, in 2007, and their first sexual encounter. “The first time we spent the night together I was already in love,” she admits. “On the first night, I pretty much had footie pajamas on in the bed with the down comforter over me.”
Where the show takes a unexpected, serious turn is when O’Donnell recounts the health scare that led them to get married sooner than expected. The couple’s original plan was to get married in late summer, not in the beginning of June. But when Rounds was diagnosed with Desmoid Tumors things changed. “We got married privately in the hospital,” O’Donnell shares with the audience.
Later, O’Donnell details her own heart attack, and the special serves as an opportunity for her to promote live-saving and preventive measures for women at risk.
Given the frame of both her journey and the big news she revealed last week, it’s hard not to read more into what’s been heard on stage, but in O’Donnell’s case, it’s all about wearing her heart on her sleeve.
Rosie O’Donnell: A Heartfelt Stand Up premieres Saturday, Feb. 14 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.