Not good enough, not bad enough.
Too short (50 minutes, plus a seven-minute video). But also, come to think of it, too long.
Mostly, Charlie Sheen’s “My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option” show on Friday in New York was forgettable, other than the sting for ticketholders who paid full price to see it. (Sheen’s Torpedo of Truth: Caveat emptor!)
Sure, if Charlie’s learn-as-you-go tour were long enough, he might eventually get the hang of it. His learning curve climb has doubtless raised him a few notches since his heroically disastrous opening night in Detroit a week ago — by all reports, the sort of show that is so awful that its witnesses can proudly boast of having been there.
But even with improvement, Sheen wasn’t ready for New York, where he played the first of two nights (the second is Sunday). With only 20 cities total on the tour, his time is running out.
The audience that filled Radio City Music Hall’s 6,000 seats seemed initially to be a welcoming bunch. They were diverse in age and attire, and, overall, rather mainstream. They were the sort of people you might see at Applebee’s celebrating a special occasion. They were a cross-section of the people who love him from “Two and a Half Men.”
They were there to see Charlie for a blast, not a rumble. And in that vein, the night started promisingly.
Sheen — sporting a New York Yankees jersey and cap — joined affable interviewer Joey Scoleri on stage with no warmup act or other delaying tactic. The Sheendanistas, many loosened up already from the lobby’s cash bars, gave him a standing ovation. In a flash, a chain-smoking Sheen was sharing colorful stories, most of them centered on women, drugs and money, most of them self-worshipping, and all of them laced liberally with F-bomb modifiers.
First topic: hotels.
He recalled a less flush, less winning time when he was staying at Manhattan’s tatty Chelsea Hotel. Two things happened that night, he said: “I had a dream that I invented Scotch tape. And I performed CPR on a supermodel in a heroin coma.
“She was in the coma, not me,” he added as a Borscht Belt-worthy aside.
Another Manhattan hotel story: his notorious night last fall at the Plaza Hotel, where Sheen trashed his suite in a drug-induced frenzy after returning there with his dinner date, an adult-film actress.
“The trouble all started,” Sheen grinned mischievously, “when she followed me up to my room.” Pause for comic effect. “Maybe, I invited her. But it’s my … story.”
Cued with questions from sidekick Scoleri, Sheen’s bad-boy-and-loving-it schtick found a receptive audience.
After all, in recent weeks he has emerged as the most popular noisemaker since the Whoopee cushion. At his best — when he’s playing the role of all-powerful “Charlie Sheen” for laughs — he is an amusing, rousing mash-up of William S. Burroughs, Rush Limbaugh and Tony Robbins, sprinkled with a heavy dose of angel dust.
At his prompting, the crowd heartily agreed that they, like him, were winning.
They cheered at his stock references to tiger blood and Adonis DNA.
They hailed his stated motivation as an actor: “thousands of chicks and tons of cash.”
But attention and material (the crowd’s and Sheen’s) were wearing thin by the time Scoleri asked one question too many about Sheen’s film career.
“Borrring,” someone called out.
And when Sheen was about to talk about his kids, another audience member erupted, “We don’t want to hear about that.”
What began as supportive yelps and squeals had grown into an inattentive hubbub.
To his credit, Sheen was unfazed by the heckling, though he wondered aloud why people don’t plan better. Like, plan to “drink less and not yell at the guy you’ve been waiting six weeks to see.”
At the 45-minute mark, Sheen and Scoleri took a break while his video, “Charlie Sheen Unedited,” (already viewed on YouTube more than 1.3 million times) unreeled.
Returning to the stage, Sheen hurriedly introduced his two “goddesses,” the by-now-famous former porn star, Rachel Oberlin, and actress, Natalie Kenley, who live with him.
Then talk finally turned to “Two and a Half Men.” As if he had never thought to mention it before, Sheen noted that he hadn’t quit the CBS sitcom but was fired from it.
And of course he wants to come back to it, he declared, also not for the first time. Why wouldn’t he? It’s “the greatest sitcom ever — EVER,” he explained, an overblown assessment received by his wearying flock with a smattering of boos.
By then, Sheen had crossed over from comedy to preaching and the audience just wasn’t in the mood.
Maybe sensing that the crowd was about to turn, Scoleri said the night would end (“That’s it?!” someone exploded) with Sheen disclosing items from his personal “bucket list.” The aisles began to fill with people startled at the concert’s brevity yet all too willing, after just an hour, to make for the exits.
One of his bucket list dreams: “I want to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge wearing a parachute,” Sheen said above the uproar. “I’m not opening it, just wearing it. I’ll live.”
Maybe so. It’s still his story, what he bills as the truth. For now, he’s still winning, even when his fans don’t.