The Charlie Sheen Roast has nothing to do with Sunday lunch at Charlie Sheen's house. No standing around eating breadsticks and making small talk while he expertly dusts a couple of porn stars with cocaine and gently spit roasts them to perfection. It’s a TV show and Sheen’s first professional return to TV screens after he went bat-shit insane.
The Roast is an American showbiz tradition with a history that goes back a hundred years or so. It’s considered an honour to be chosen and have friends rip the piss out of you in the most extreme way possible. Or a night down the pub, as it’s called in England. Dean Martin took a toned-down version of his Vegas roasts to TV in the 50's and now Comedy Central throws them in honor of people like William Shatner, Jerry Springer, Pamela Anderson and inevitably Charlie Sheen.
Seth MacFarlane, Mike Tyson, Jon Lovitz, Steve-O and more turned out to mock Sheen in a room decked out like a high-tech Roman arena. The man himself entered on the front of a prop crazy train, which I can reveal looks like those old black steam trains you see in westerns. Nothing particularly crazy about it, except this one had Slash guitar-soloing wildly on the front. Sheen nods appreciatively as Slash blasts out a millions notes per-second then sits in a chair centre stage between two torpedoes of truth. I can't decide if he looks rough or amazing after 30-odd years of hard partying. He should look worse. At 46, he’s long in the tooth for a hellraiser. It’s a young man’s game. You’re not supposed to live that long if you’re doing it properly. If there’s any sign of the damage he’s done to himself, it’s how thin he looks - not exactly unhealthy, just thin.
Jeffrey Ross threw this at him: "If you're winning, then something's wrong with the fucking scoreboard. If you're winning, then this must not be a child custody hearing."
Sheen sat languidly with a crooked smirk on his face for most for the night, reacting to the worst zingers with a sideways glance at the other comics and mock shake of his head. In fact, the audience were shocked more than Sheen and gasped as actress Kate Walsh cracked, "Despite all those years of abusing your lungs, your kidneys, your liver, the only thing you've had removed is your kids." She looked at him and asked, "Too soon?" Sheen shook his head. "Too true?", and Sheen slightly nodded. A moment of regret, I thought, though minutes later Sheen was laughing hard as comic Jeffrey Ross threw this at him: "If you're winning, then something's wrong with the fucking scoreboard. If you're winning, then this must not be a child custody hearing. The only time your kids get to see you is in re-runs. Don't you want to live to see their first 12 steps?” Dressed in a baby blue Colonel Gaddafi outfit, Ross earned some huge laughs and may have stole the show. They all got huge laughs, but then Charlie Sheen jokes must write themselves. The comics had been gifted with the subject matter of a man and his breakdown. It gave the night an edge, but there was not one moment where you felt like Sheen couldn't take it.
Mike Tyson attempted a skit where he tried to read some poetry, but keep getting overwhelmed with homicidal rage and had to hurl abuse at Sheen. He got a standing ovation for that - remarkable, as I could barely understand a word he said. Though, if Tyson wants to be re-invented as a comedian who’s going to tell him otherwise? Steve-O, has had the same idea and looked nervous as he ran through his jokes. He ended his bit by throwing himself at Tyson's fist in an attempt to get a black eye, but it didn't work, and after a couple more attempts, and maybe sensing the audience’s confusion, he gave up.
Comic Patrice O'Neal went off autocue at the end and attacked the other comics. It was the event’s first moment of subversion as he called Captain Kirk an asshole, compared Tyson’s acting to Mohammed Ali with Parkinsons and hoped Steve-O would relapse. He also admitted a grudging admiration for Sheen. "I respect Charlie Sheen. Not his body of work, it's all been like 'yeah really?' It's all been very Christian Slater-ish. He sucks, but he's good, but he sucks at the same time." He knew that there was nothing he could say worse than what Sheen had already done to himself. A point Sheen acknowledged at the end and added, "I'm done with the winning, because I've already won. This roast may be over, but I'm Charlie Sheen and in here burns an eternal fire. I just have to remember to keep it away from a crack pipe."
At the party afterwards, Sheen sat in corner as guests crowded around and gawped at him like an exotic, caged animal.
As the stage emptied and the audience started to leave, Steve-O asked if we wanted to see him finally get a black eye from Tyson. I guess it was for the cameras, but he was un-miked and many people were walking to the exits. He again launched himself and again missed. Steve-O psyched himself up one last time and finally managed to break his nose on Iron Mike's fist, blood streaming out of his mouth. Steve-O was triumphant.
At the party afterwards, Sheen sat in corner as guests crowded around and gawped at him like an exotic, caged animal. Dog the Bounty Hunter squeezed his way in and stood by Charlie, while the guys next to me shared a pot pipe. Dog should have busted them. Maybe it was his night off.
Once you've had too much free booze, Hollywood smoothes out and makes a drunken kind of sense. Like a long alcohol-fuelled conversation where you forget what your point is, but keep talking anyway, it feeds off itself. Charlie Sheen is still squeezing a payday out of Charlie Sheen. He's been through divorce and various custody battles three times in his life, each one corresponds with his most extreme and self-destructive behaviour, only this time round he's sold it to the public as a lifestyle choice and spun TV shows off the back of it. There's a new sitcom in the works, 'Anger Management’, and a film of his life. Guess who's playing Charlie Sheen? He is.
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