Barbeau made her Broadway debut in Fiddler on the Roof, but is perhaps best known for her role as Carol Trainor on the CBS television sitcom Maude (1972-78), and her roles in a number of horror films, including Swamp Thing (1982) and Creepshow (1982). She also appeared in the all-star comedy Cannonball Run (1981) to win the cross-country auto race. She also played Oswald's mother on The Drew Carey Show and from 2003 to 2005 starred on the HBO series Carnivale.
From 1979 to 1984 she was married to director John Carpenter; she appeared in his films The Fog and Escape from New York. The couple have a son, Cody. Barbeau married her current husband, Billy Van Zandt, in 1994. Barbeau gave birth to twins, Walker and William, in 1997 at the age of 51.
Like country singer Dolly Parton, Barbeau has achieved a certain degree of notoriety for her ample bosom. And, like Parton, she has refused offers to doff her clothing within the pages of Playboy magazine although Barbeau has appeared nude in several films.
In the animated series Sealab 2021, she is mentioned numerous times. One of Captain Murphy's lifelong dreams is that if his brain were to be put in a robot body, it would be that of an 'Adrienne Barbeaubot'. In a later episode (I Robot Really) he got his wish, with chainsaw hands and 'D-cups of Justice'. In one other episode (Der Dieb), he declared himself married to her, and also crowned her Queen of Mars from Olympus Mons to Tharsis.