On my commute yesterday, someone was saying on the radio that Charlie Sheen has “jumped the shark.” I found myself wondering whether they were talking about his career as a whole, or if the reference was just to his latest publicity blitz. I’m good with it either way.
A brief aside before I get started on this, for those who aren’t familiar with the expression “jumping the shark.” For you young’uns, there was a very successful show called Happy Days, and on it was an ultra-cool character named Arthur Fonzarelli, whom everyone just called “Fonz.” Happy days was about a mixture of kids in the 50s, with all the same plot lines that have been recycled through 250 sitcoms since then. Then one day, apparently, the writers decided that all the story ideas had been exhausted and it was time to put the Fonz on waterskis in his signature leather jacket … and have him literally jump a shark. It wasn’t official, but that was the moment when everyone knew something very public had just died very publically.
We rejoin your regularly scheduled train wreck now in progress. The Sheenius has been waging war on several fronts right, simultaneously battling CBS to increase his $1.2m episode-ly salary for Two and a Half Men, and fighting to stay part of his children’s lives after that first battle revealed what a shattered, delusional human being he is. He’s huge on Twitter right now and clips of his rambling insanity are garnering hundreds of thousands of hits on Youtube.
Sheen has also inspired a host of amateur comedians, which makes me hate him just for that. My friend Matt pointed out today: “FYI: Charlie Sheen and ‘winning’ = funny. You beating the joke to death at the water cooler, not so much.” Dozens of websites have cropped up to repeat Sheen’s interviews, webcasts and goofball quotes to news services. Everybody’s a comedian when they’re repeating what someone else already said.
An exception (and I don’t usually like mash-ups) that made me laugh:
Don’t get me wrong: everyone loves a train wreck. He’s semi-famously declared that, “I’m tired of pretending I’m not a total, bitchin’ rock star from Mars.” But what I really want to say to Charlie is Shut the holy hell up. You’re an amateur.
In Hollywood, there are periodic train wrecks. Mel Gibson had a couple and suddenly was goose-stepping at a traffic stop; Michael Richards had a couple and gained the same notoreity versus Black and Mexican hecklers. David Hasselhoff had a couple and committed one of the most heinous hate crimes ever against cheeseburgers. Famous for recent temper tantrums are Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. We watch and we chuckle because these people are so grandiose about pretending to be other people and becoming famous for it, that it’s actually fine to revel in their humility.
Charlie’s not humble about it. Asked whether he’s bipolar, he responds that he’s “bi-winning.” Everyone else is a pussy or a loser. But what he doesn’t realize is that there are various stripes of batshit, and he isn’t winning the blue ribbon in any of them.
There’s drugged out crazy. Sorry, Charlie. Sam Kinison beat you to the totally-high-as-a-celebrity shtick by decades. So did Cheech & Chong. So did John Belushi … and half the cast of SNL ever since then. Curing your drug addiction in nanoseconds and bragging that, “This is me not on drugs bro” doesn’t make anyone think you’re cooler for it or make you some kind of bitchin’ spokesperson for legalization.
There’s poor-choices crazy. Charlie has been married and divorced three times, which doesn’t even disqualify him from running for Congress. He openly advocates for prostitution and lives with two porn stars (I actually think Bree Oleson is a pretty good choice) whom he calls his “goddesses.” Want to get famous for bad choices as an actor? Try being Tom Sizemore, who lived with Heidi Fleiss then beat her up. Tom reminds me of something about a golden goose. And he’s in the running for the drugged-out celebrity award at the same time.
There’s enthusiastic crazy. If you’re not bouncing on Oprah’s couch crowing about a relationship that borders of pedophelia, you’re just not trying hard enough. Yes, Mr. Cruise, I’m talking to you. And yes, friends, the name Tom seems to be a developing theme. Even Tom Green is eligible as an entrant to the crazy-to-think-he-should-be-onscreen category.
And then, there’s pure crazy. No one, no way, EVER, will take that title from Gary Busey. If he’s not the craziest human being I have ever or will ever see, then my life holds horrors for me that I can’t imagine at this point. Gary shuffles onstage for the occasional Comedy Central roast … and all the other B-list comedians skooch away from him. Charlie wants you to think that there’s no way you know what he’s going to say next, but with Gary, you know that you don’t know what he’ll do next. Talk show hosts are afraid to have him on because he might just tackle you, and he might forget it started as a joke.
If I ever wanted to compile a Hollywood memoir, just to make Sun Tzu turn over in his grave, I think I’d call it The Art of Crazy. Aside from everything I’ve said up to this point, Charlie would merit a couple of entries. Among my favorites:
- Clearly I have defeated this earthworm with my words.
- I look at the game of baseball and I’m reminded of a quote that I wrote.
- I’ve got magic. I’ve got poetry at my fingertips.
- The wildfires are spreading. The meek are scattering.
- I’ve got tiger blood and Adonis DNA.
- I have a 10,000-year-old brain and the boogers of a seven-year-old.
- It’s been a tsunami. And I’ve been riding it on a mercury surfboard.
- We’re Vatican assassins. How complicated can it be?
- I am battle-tested bayonets bro.
- Resentments are the rocket fuel that lives in the tip of my sabre.
- Most of the time- and this includes naps- I’m an F-18.
In contrast to Charlie’s comments, taken in a vacuum, very little about this situation has been funny. I did enjoy John Stamos’s comment via Twitter, “contrary to the rumors, i am not replacing charlie sheen on two and half men. however, martin sheen has asked me to be his son.” But very un-funny is the fact that Charlie has kids caught up in this whole thing. He’s pointed out that 1) “If you’re a part of my family, I will love you violently,” and 2) “Touch my children and I will eat your hands off your arms.”
Good luck with that custody battle, sir.
Also not too funny is the news this morning that CBS has decided this isn’t worth their time or the press, and that Charlie is fired from Two and a Half Men. It’s going to be hard to maintain his hookers-and-blow habit, or provide for his kids, with Hollywood deciding that he’s just too much trouble to deal with. Robert Downey, Jr. could probably give him some advice about tottering along that precipice, if Charlie would only listen.
I’m also wondering whether, even if this whole sitcom situation can get ironed out, how anyone watches the Sheenius in the future. Do you keep watching for him to play the apparently-understated version of his real life, or is the only thing people want from him now the over-the-top insanity? Because frankly, the first couple of salvos of sickness were entertaining, but since then, he’s been trying to be crazy on purpose. He’s an idiot that hasn’t figured out people are laughing at him rather than with him, but he can’t force the kind of stupidity that won him the initial buzz.
At some point, Sheen is going to achieve a moment of lucidity from the manic depression or the drugs or both, and he’s going to be very tempted to throw himself off a cliff. I hope for the sake of his dignity and the welfare of his family that some other Hollywood celebrity has stepped up to be the train wreck du jour by then so we don’t have to watch it.