If you didn't know better, you'd think that Charlie Sheen spent all this time sabotaging the highest-paying gig in TV just so he'd wind up the guest of dishonor at his own roast, specifically, the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen, airing Sept. 19.
For the show's taping last Saturday at Sony Studios, the network once again gathered a dais full of roasters with little or no connection to the roastee. As is the format, the roasters first take shots at each other before going after the man of the hour. Pretty much anyone present, missing, alive or dead is fair game for that matter. Virtually nothing is off limits; jokes about dead babies might've gotten the OK if the producers thought they'd make enough people squirm.
The network used to hire comedy pros like Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswalt and Whitney Cummings to do the teasing. But they're too busy or too famous now. With the exception of roast alum and comic Jeffrey Ross, Sheen had to take verbal punches from the likes of William Shatner, Mike Tyson, Jon Lovitz, Steve-O, Grey's Anatomy's Kate Walsh and comics Patrice O'Neal, Amy Schumer and Anthony Jeselnik, in addition to host Seth MacFarlane, who asked Walsh no less than three times, “Why are you here?”
MacFarlane would've put that same question to much of the invited guests, which included Dog the Bounty Hunter and his wife, Beth, Ron Jeremy, Girls Gone Wild impresario Joe Francis, actors Michael Boatman and Corbin Bernsen, and — hand to God — singer Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon. Sure, getting a bird's eye view of the Dog's red leather face is plenty weird, but it's not nearly as bizarre as being stuck for hours inside the hell that is the reporters' pit.
The press line along the black carpet — decorated with fake columns, models dressed as Greek goddesses and signs in Latin — was divided into two sections: one for major press (not us), and the other for non-major press (us). Naturally, the big shots got first dibs at all the celebrities, who, by the time they made it to our side — Siberia — were being whisked away.
If there are enough reporters standing around feeling ignored, publicists and assistants of pseudo stars and complete unknowns will troll up and down the press line asking anyone with a camera if they want to interview their clients. The logical answer is usually no (we're sure that lovely singer from Albania is big in her native country and all), but there's always the few who are actually willing to hear their life stories. Most entertainment reporters are as vapid and annoying as their subjects. Spend too much time together with little to do, and you're going to hear loads of crass and catty comments.
“Did she look thin?” asked one reporter about Charlie's ex-wife Brooke Mueller. “Not especially,” said the other reporter. Earlier, I overhear one of them trying to speak Spanish to a guy who said he was from Comedy Central Brazil. Charlie Sheen may be a hopeless drug addict, but he was probably smarter than most of the people there, including O'Neal, who's a total ass, even by stand-up comedy standards. Apropos of nothing, and without even a question, O'Neal randomly asked if I was from Turkey. Turkey? Why Turkey? Guess he'd never met a brunette at a Hollywood event. (After all the Kardashians' hard work). Before talking to reporters, O'Neal stopped at the pre-show interview hosted by two admittedly annoying guys from Comedy Central's series Workaholics. Irate, he walked off after a few minutes, yelling at the crew. O'Neal would later get his comeuppance at the roast.
Too bad we weren't allowed to sit at the grown-ups table and watch the taping in person. Instead, we watched the show on TV screens in a press lounge/sound stage. Sheen made his entrance perched on a train prop with Slash behind him playing his ax. With all of Sheen's rants about tiger's blood, goddess girlfriends and torpedoes of truth, the stage was decorated with, what else, missiles and more half-naked models. For his introduction, McFarlane wrote Sheen's obituary, “because there's a good chance Charlie will be dead soon.”
They all had their say: Lovitz (“How much blow can Charlie Sheen do? Enough to kill two-and-half men”); Steve-O (“Dude your nose is like my ass; there's nothing you won't put up there”); Schumer (“You're like Bruce Willis. You were big in the '80s, but now your slot's being filled by Ashton Kutcher”); and Ross (“Charlie Sheen is to stand-up what Larry Flynt is to standing up”).
Yeah, it felt like being inside the Fort Knox of comedy gold. Especially with Ross, who opened for Sheen while he was on tour and came dressed as Gadhafi. But after three hours, the jokes become tedious and almost painful. There's just way too many people flogging an almost-dead celeb.
O'Neal was the last man up, and after all the racist jabs about sickle-cell anemia and living in the projects, even he looked fed up. It might've been part of the act, but O'Neal seemed genuinely flustered, calling Captain Kirk a “fuckin' asshole” and telling the audience: “Y'all laughed at some fucked-up shit.” No shit.
Sheen sat through it all before eventually getting his turn. “This roast may be over, but I'm Charlie Sheen, and in here burns an internal fire,” he said. “I just have to remember to keep it away from a crack pipe.”
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