Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ashton vs Charlie: There's A New Trunk On The Block 9/21/11

Why would anyone subject themselves to a bunch of showbiz (mostly) B listers abusing them not only in front of a studio audience but viewers at home?

The “celebrity roast” is bear pit television in LA. A celebrity – invariably one who has a dubious moral record – sits in a chair, while the “roast master” introduces the other celebrities, who in turn get up to deliver a comic monologue denouncing the star’s shortcomings.

For the less practised, the struggle to read an autocue full of jokes that have been written for them is embarrassing to watch; other performers display genius both in terms of material and presentation.

Last night, Comedy Central aired the Charlie Sheen Roast, just an hour after Charlie’s replacement, Aston Kutcher, made his debut on Two and a Half Men, from which Charlie was sacked.

Kutcher’s entrance was in wet clothes, from which he quickly excavated himself and bared all – alas, this was hidden from the viewers sitting at home, but we nevertheless learned in the storyline that he is allegedly hung like an elephant.

Or maybe that’s just his character.

Anyway, CBS will have been rubbing their own trunks with glee when the viewing figures came in – 28 million.

The roast made less easy viewing. The brilliant Seth MacFarlane was roast master and was a good sport about taking jokes against himself too, even though they were pretty lame ones referring to the possibility that he might be gay but unwilling to come out of the closet. Who cares.

Mike Tyson delivered his speech with enormous energy and charm and looked in danger of expiring with the hilarity of the whole night, especially jokes in relation to his facial tattoo. Jeffrey Ross was the fantastic old pro he always is, even though a little bizarrely dressed as Colonel Gadhafi, and William Shatner was the star we know him to be.

And then there were some other people of whom I had never heard – which seemed to be the case for Charlie and Seth, too.

There were some very funny jokes, with many references to Charlie’s drug and alcohol problems and his psychological meltdown that followed his sacking from TAAHM. This was as sad as it was amusing, with the star later admitting that he hadn’t realised how screwed up he was until that night.

His own speech was a polished masterpiece and also rather moving, in the obvious realisation that here is a man who has been through hell and come through. Probably.

What left a far less pleasant taste in the mouth were the references to the women Charlie has physically abused, and quite why people were able to laugh so loudly at the idea of bleeding women cowering in corners and having things violently thrown at them is beyond me.

The bigger mystery was why one of them – ex-wife Brooke Mueller – was sitting in the audience, laughing uproariously along with everyone else.

But then I remembered that I recently made a “joke” on Facebook about the UK show, Red or Black, when the first winner of £1million was revealed to have served time for beating up his ex-girlfriend. Would the show now be called Black or Blue, I questioned. Most people thought it hilarious, but there were a couple of voices of dissension.

Was my comment any less offensive than the ones I felt uncomfortable with last night?

I think there’s a difference. My comment was a linguistic joke making fun of the show’s title in the light of their having failed to do their research properly; the Sheen event seemed to carry the message that if you’re a big enough and rich enough celebrity, you can do what the hell you like, including beating up women, and everyone will love you even more for it.

I enjoy the roasts, although can’t for the life of me think why anyone would subject themselves to the experience. Maybe it’s a way of drawing a line under the past: a way of saying “That was then, this is now” – and moving on, having learned valuable lessons.

Sheen was brilliant in TAAHM and he will go on to do other great work; I also hope that he has beaten his demons and emerged a stronger and nicer person.

But Kutcher will do well as his replacement. You know that phrase people say when nobody’s talking about “the elephant in the room”?

With Kutcher’s naked debut, now they’re talking ONLY about the elephant in the room.

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