The best part of Charlie Sheen's show last night? If not his whole life? When a fan wandered up to the stage and handed him a backstage laminate for the Rush concert. Charlie was psyched. "I fucking love Rush! Not Rush Limbaugh! Not the sex drug! Rush the band!" It made one wonder: what would Rush make of Charlie Sheen? Does he choose Free Will? Is he an oak or a maple? Is he a wild man standing tall against the CBS Priests of the Temple of Syrinx? Or does he really just want to return to the sitcom limelight, with all its glittering prizes and endless compromises?
One thing is for sure: Charlie Sheen is new at this whole live stand-up thing, so he has his highs and lows. His Violent Torpedo of Truth tour, which nobody thought would last this long, hit New York this weekend. On Friday night at Radio City Music Hall, he got booed off the stage. But last night at the same venue, he was in forgive-me mode, which was a lot more fun. "This is fucking radical," he told the crowd. "Unlike Friday fucking night. I'm not sure if anybody else was here – I'm not sure I fucking was. Friday night got a little hijacked, because I let people get into my magic fucking brain." His new game plan: keep telling the audience how smart they were to come to a Charlie Sheen show. "You fell in love with some thoughts," he said. "You fell in love with a guy who just said 'fuck you' to the corporate side of my life. A guy who said, 'I'm done fucking people pleasing.'"
The very nice lady sitting in front of me, who loved Charlie enough to have spent $35 on her "BANGIN' 7G's" tank top, was there on Friday too, and said it wasn't really Charlie's fault. She spent a lot of time bonding with the meatball in the "DUH, WINNING" shirt who informed everybody in our section he wouldn't tolerate any booing. These are Charlie's people, and he was smart enough to suck up to them. When he asked "Has anybody else ever been denied the right to express their passion on all fronts?" they cheered. When he apologized for bombing Friday night, they cheered even louder. "We changed up the format from shit to great," he said. That meant he made a big gesture of grabbing his teleprompters and turning them backwards, so he couldn't read them. "Our script is fucking gone!" he crowed. "I always say 'plan better.' Tonight, 'plan better' means eliminating the plan! The plan was shit, so get rid of it!"
It was a strange show all around. Charlie entered after a montage of famous movies (Jaws, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now, Pulp Fiction) that he wasn't in, and waded down the center aisle, high-fiving the crowd. He sat onstage with an inept interviewer (a ravaged-looking Simon Rex, unrecognizable from his MTV poster-boy days, who just read his questions out of the tour program) and an inept metal guitarist who once played on Korn's "Unplugged" album (though he couldn't play "Whole Lotta Love" when the goddesses came onstage for the big "let's have a hand for the goddesses" moment). Charlie made jokes ("What does DNA stand for? Don't Need AA!") and repeated his inspirational catch-phrases ("Take 'I can't do it' out of the mix and watch what happens"). He brought Daryl Strawberry up for a hug. James Lipton from In The Actor's Studio came up to take a bow and ask one of his trademark questions: "What is your favorite curse word?" Charlie responded, "Either 'fuck' or 'Denise.'"
There was a long video interlude, in which Charlie sang "Take It On The Run" with REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin on guitar. Then Charlie came back out to tell everybody, "Let's get some fucking glowsticks and have a rave in Central Park! Is that what the kids are doing these days?" (Simon Rex told him, "I think that was ten years ago.") He took questions from the audience, grousing, "I don't wanna talk about fucking marriage, man. I suck at it. Let's talk about fucking whores and crack. I'm pretty fucking good at that." He led a "fuck Dr. Drew" chant, gave a hundred bucks to a fan who asked for money, and recalled discovering crack and the Internet on the same weekend ("I wanna thank Al Gore for both"). But mostly, he talked about wanting his old job back. He apologized to Jon Cryer ("absolute rock star") and Chuck Lorre ("great writer"), urging fans to write the network and ask them to rehire him for 2 and a Half Men, which he called "the best fucking job in the world."
You couldn't really call it "winning," not when the whole point was trying to grovel your way back into the Hollywood career you just winning'd your way out of. But there were moments that were actually quite touching. After describing himself as an F-18, Charlie asked, "Anybody else here have those skills?" When the crowd roared "noooo!," Charlie looked surprised. "Yes, you do. Just believe that you do. And say it out loud, over and over, and people will believe you. Or they'll call you fucking bipolar." Thanks, Charlie!