Review: Charlie Sheen did not self-destruct for your pleasure at DAR Constitution Hall
A review of Charlie Sheen's show at DAR Constitution Hall appears in today's paper. Here's the longer version, which was shortened for space:
DAR Constitution Hall was nearly sold out Tuesday night for Charlie Sheen’s “Violent Torpedo of Truth” tour. The traveling circus has raised many questions, but the most glaring of all has to be why hundreds of people would pay top-shelf prices – over $100 in some cases - to see the actor in person.
Towards the end of the show, Michael Moore, of all people, volunteered an answer. In a letter that was read out loud to the crowd, the filmmaker said that the public’s fascination with Sheen has to do with the actor’s candor, with his refusal to play a phony and walk the plank of self-punishment on the talk show circuit.
But in typical form, Moore misses the forest for the trees. We’ve had frank, self-destructive celebrities before. VH1’s entire programming depends on them. And yet, we haven’t had the Jeff Conoway Tour of Redemption.
The novelty with Sheen is that he’s the first to take the self-immolating act we’ve already seen on TV on the road, raising the possibility that we’ll see a multi-millionaire unravel before our very eyes.
If that’s what hundreds were expecting at DAR, they were sorely disappointed.
Sheen’s “Violtent Torpedo of Truth” tour might have more accurately been called, “A dull evening with Charlie Sheen,” as it was neither violent, explosive nor truthful. During the show, Sheen doesn't do much besides react, listen and gloat. He was neither self-destructive nor embarrassing. Howard Beale in sweat pants never showed up.
The evening was stubbornly uneventful. Just about the most eye-raising moment came when Sheen suggested Barack Obama’s birth certificate was “photoshopped.” But these days even presidential hopefuls are floating that idea around, usually uncorrected by reporters, so that the line felt less incendiary than pandering to a risible crowd.
What the crowd of 3,000 or so got was the kind of hammy Q&A presentation normally reserved for the network upfronts. The show, if it can be called that, was more of an egomaniac’s wet dream.
Usually, at a performance of any kind, there’s at least a cursory effort to entertain the audience. But at Sheen’s show the focus was strictly on pleasing the star himself.
Over the course of the hour-and-a-half show, Sheen took questions from the audience about his life, sparred with DJ Tommy Griffiths about his ex-wives, got roasted by comedian Jeff Ross, and finally showed his greatest YouTube moments. All were meant to show the star in a self-deprecating light, but instead celebrated his worst flaws.
Sheen took the stage shortly after 9 p.m., disproving critics – myself included – who bet he’d pull a Lauryn Hill and turn up at the last minute. He also didn’t forget the words to any of his material.
But that’s mainly because he didn’t have any to remember.
Griffiths joined him on stage to quiz him on the day’s current events. It was a meeting of minds worthy of “Charlie Rose.” What would you do about sleepy air traffic controllers, Charlie? “ Adderall.” What about a punishment for Qaddafi? Force him to marry Brooke and Denise, the actor said, an enormous smirk plastered on his face.
Accompanying Sheen and Griffiths on stage was a guitarist who was supposed to play to their punchlines, but sat idle for most of the show. There was little stagecraft: just a couple of arm chairs, and a stool for the tired musician.
The rest of Griffiths’ Q&A was as probing as “Frost/Nixon.” Griffith asked Sheen to play word association - Mars? “Rock Star!” – and to recall his favorite movie set memory. (It was watching Marlon Brandon scarf down a bowl of spaghetti during the filming of “Apocalypse, Now.”) Sheen seemed forgetful at times. “Oh, we covered court already didn't we?”
It would be silly to suggest that the show lost whatever momentum it had as this Q&A went along because it never had any to begin with.
Jeff Ross, a regular on Comedy Central’s celebrity roasts, came out for the second half of the show and got the night’s first genuine, non-ironic laughs.
It was the first time all night that the crowd shut up to hear what a person on stage had to say. Throughout the night they had heckled Sheen and Griffiths, screaming non-sequiturs to each one of Griffiths’ what-would-you-do questions; “Cocaine!” was a popular answer.
It was the mood of a crowd that had gotten robbed of a meltdown in real time and instead got the kind of performance a crazy uncle delivers annually at Thanksgiving dinner.
But for that expectation they have no one to blame but themselves.
When Ross Ross praised Sheen’s chutzpah for touring with no written material, Sheen countered, accurately, that he had never promised to do stand-up on tour, or to polemicize about the day’s events, and much less to self-destruct for people’s pleasure.
“I never said what this was,” Sheen acknowledged. He was simply offered money to tour, ran with it, and saw ticket sales go through the roof. Talk about winning.
Photo: Charlie Sheen at DAR Constitution Hall Tuesday (Washington Post/Mark Gail)