Doing standup, Charlie Sheen’s out of his league
BY RICHARD ROEPER firstname.lastname@example.org April 4, 2011 12:48AM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Charlie Sheen would return to “Two and a Half Men” if asked, he was supposed to do “The Karate Kid” but was already committed to “Grizzly 2: The Predator,” and his impression of Chicago Police officers is they’d extract some “flashlight justice” on troublemakers in a heartbeat.
And so it goes.
One night after the reportedly disastrous show in Detroit that resulted in heckling, walkouts and speculation the “Torpedo of Truth” tour would be truncated, Sheen took the stage at the Chicago Theatre as the exuberant crowd chanted “Detroit sucks!”
This show, such as it was, consisted of Sheen and a gum-chewing, unfunny Joey Scoleri (Sheen’s manager and tour co-producer) onstage with a guitarist. There was some audience participation, as when Sheen exchanged shirts with a burly back-haired guy and when a few goddess-wannabes made apparently drunken attempts to get Charlie’s attention, but for the most part it was Sheen smoking and rambling.
That almost nobody walked out is either a testament to the patience of Chicago audiences or the fact that folks figured they’d already paid, so why not stick around to see if anything interesting will happen?
It never really did.
The so-called “goddesses” made a brief appearance, Sheen told stories of drug use and Internet porn, and he occasionally got impatient with the constant interruptions, at one point barking, “I f------ talk, you listen!” And that was about it. Not really a trainwreck, just a little bit sad and more than a little bit tedious.
Among the Sheen-isms:
“I discovered the Internet and crack on the same night.”
“Is it me or is [it hotter than] a Cambodian outhouse in a heat wave in here?”
“On the same night, I had Mick Jagger and Eddie Van Halen fetch me a beer.”
“[Martin Sheen] is still my dad, he still murdered Colonel Kurtz.”
“I don’t know, what do I know? Nothing.”
Finally, Sheen read a long letter from a fan saying how great he is, the lights went up, and that was that.
Is that all there is?
It might not always pay, but it wins.
When the Situation of “Jersey Shore” tried to play with the big boys and girls at a Comedy Central roast of Donald Trump a few weeks ago, of course he bombed. The guy’s a reality TV creation who had never done stand-up, and all of a sudden he’s sharing the stage with veterans such as Jeffrey Ross and Whitney Cummings.
When a Kim Kardashian or a Heidi Montag or Paris Hilton “drop” a new single, which is inevitably some deeply Auto-tuned, mist weight dance number, you know these no-talents can’t duplicate even their crappy pop sounds live onstage.
And so it was that Charlie Sheen was doomed to fail as a live act.
Sheen has a limited but undeniable skill set as an actor, interpreting other people’s writing. He was perfectly cast in “Two and a Half Men,” and of course he has a long list of feature credits, from “Platoon” and “Wall Street” to “Major League.”
But to command a stage in front of a large audience, you have to bring it. Whether you’re a storyteller, a trained actor doing theater, a singer who can give the audience chills or a stand-up who has spent the obligatory 10,000 hours honing 75 minutes of material, by the time you’re doing your thing in front of a crowd of thousands, you’re in command — or you’re toast.
It would have been an upset if Sheen hadn’t bombed in his debut in Detroit or if the revamped but still underwhelming in Chicago had killed. There’s no there there.
The night before Sheen took the stage in Detroit, Stephen Colbert appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s show to do a rendition of “Friday,” the YouTube/iTunes mega-hit sung by 13-year-old Rebecca Black that spawned tens of millions of views, hundreds of thousands of comments and innumerable parodies. Clad in a tux, Colbert (backed by the Roots) did a killer rendition of the “Friday,” with Fallon and “American Idol’s” Taylor Hicks joining in the fun.
It was epic. Worthy of an Emmy and a Grammy. (A Gremmy!) Even though Colbert and Co. were having fun with the song, they weren’t making fun of the kid. The end results was a silly, stupid, brilliantly orchestrated piece of musical comedy.
Sheen and his rapper pal and his porn star goddess can’t do anything like that because they don’t have the comedic sensibilities or the gifts to pull it off.