The best thing I can say for Charlie Sheen after seeing his appearance in Boston? He’s still alive and definitely off the drugs.
Unfortunately, the rest of us are all off the drug called Charlie Sheen. The high has worn off, and the hangover is setting in. And sadly, despite amassing a sizeable audience, Sheen really has nothing to say.
Sheen’s “My Violent Torpedo of Truth” live tour, which bombed on opening night in Detroit but has gotten mixed reviews in other cities, could be charitably characterized as a “mixed bag” in Boston. Applauded early on, Sheen benefited from playing to a college-aged crowd that popped for his trite catchphrases but eventually grew tired of his shtick about 45 minutes into the “show” he performed in Boston Tuesday night.
We’re using the term “show” loosely, because for the 70 minutes or so that he kept himself on stage, you never felt like Sheen – or anyone for that matter — was controlling anything. Armed with an anonymous sidekick and a guitar player who riffed after every punch line and catchphrase for punctuation, Sheen had no gameplan beyond dropping F-bombs and quoting himself for the first 15 minutes. After an impromptu “third Goddess” pageant (which would have felt staged if it wasn’t so poorly executed), the program veered into a disjointed Q&A session that searched for spontaneity but grew increasingly tiresome. Nonsense cameos from local C-Listers Paul D and Vinny Pazienza brought nothing to the table.
When the program turned over to Q&A, he criticized the crowd for asking lame questions (or questions about the tired tales of debauchery he’s already recited), then dodged anything that required the least bit of contemplation. He appeared to already be tired of his own act.
So what exactly did Sheen want to talk about? Where were the Torpedos of Truth? What was his point? When a stoned fan was brought up on stage and asked Sheen, “Why are we here?”, a question about 6,000 people were probably asking themselves, Sheen turned it back on the kid, presumably because Sheen himself doesn’t have an answer.
So what is the point of this tour? It wasn’t comedy. It wasn’t drama. It wasn’t even a Henry Rollins-style spoken word event. It wasn’t really anything beyond an ill-conceived money grab, devoid of any real production values or storytelling, thrown together while the proverbial iron was still hot.
Sheen may have nearly sold out Boston University’s Agganis Arena, but there were few reports of anyone actually paying face value for tickets. StubHub and Ace Ticket had hundreds of seats available this afternoon at a fraction of face value. I attended the show (and live tweeted so you didn’t have to be there) with a $90 ticket acquired for just $20 in the secondary market. Given the volume of similar seats available, you’d have to imagine those seats were distributed directly to the secondary market.
Whatever they paid, people did show up, so tour promoters weren’t completely misguided in staging this traveling car crash. In some ways you can probably attribute that to his rapid success in the social media arena. Sheen exploded onto the digital scene when he took his rants to Twitter after the meandering/ranting interviews that thrust him into the pop culture zeitgeist about six weeks ago. He’s amassed 3.5 million followers on Twitter on the strength of his irreverent interviews and snarky catchphrases, but the sheen, if you will, of his star is wearing thin. More importantly, since going off the deep end, he’s lost his job, is always at risk of losing his kids again, and he’s losing America’s interest. The one coherent message gleaned from the show is that he’s basically begging for his Two and a Half Men job back, but he refuses to apologize for being fired.
Something’s got to give. Yet, oddly enough, Sheen took to the airwaves after the show, joining 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich for two hours of genuinely compelling radio. With accomplished disc jockeys interviewing him, Sheen is far more interesting. So maybe he needs to let go and just invite actual journalists to interview him on stage and see where it goes. Anything would be an improvement to the current format.
But left to his own devices, Sheen’s pretty dull once you get past the cheap laughs of his boasting and catchphrases. If there’s a point to be made on this tour, ironic, artistic or otherwise, Sheen hasn’t figured it out. It’s like he’s letting us all in on an inside joke at his own expense, only we’ve already heard it 100 times. Problem is, Sheen can’t remember how to set up the punchline or why it’s even funny anymore.