Craig Ferguson isn’t going to make any jokes about Charlie Sheen. He likens the media and general public’s infatuation with the Hollywood celebrity’s suicide by camera to an 18th Century psychiatric hospital where people paid to tour the facility, peek into the padded rooms, and gape and point and laugh at all the patients who had flown over the cuckoo’s nest.
Ferguson’s usually my moral pop culture compass (Why? Because he’s awesome.), but on this point I disagree. It certainly would seem appropriate if everyone had the self-restraint not to gawk at Sheen’s drug abuse and domestic violence charges, but his subsequent adoption of social media doesn’t all look like the violent and haphazard path of a star on a train that’s careening off track. There’s more to it. Like Sheen says, “If people could just read behind the hieroglyphic, if they could put their freakin’ cryptology hat on, they’d realize this isn’t totally serious.”
Clearly the guy could use a script for some chill spills, but his choice to go to the Twitter (after losing his publicist after burning more than a billion bridges with more than a million radio and television interviews) and speak directly to masses with a kind of diction and gusto tailor-made for the medium may come to be a case study for future PR interns on how to handle acute manic crises.
Sheen further embraced the medium that cuts out the middle men between him and his audience on Saturday night with the debut of his web series, Sheen’s Korner. The hour-long broadcast on Ustream included poetry recitals, fan shout-outs, the reveal of a new tattoo, the mocking of NBC News correspondent Jeff Rosen, and a lot of wasted air time with nonsensicals that made even hardcore winners confused.
The program drew 113,251 concurrent viewers at its peak, over 1 million on-demand views over the last 36 hours, a lot of media attention, and at least one outspoken critic. Sheen called his own web show “treasonous to the movement,” and promised his audience he would plan better for next time.
That next time could come in the form of a Mark Cuban-endorsed cable television show or more uncensored, unfiltered access to Sheen wherever and whenever he has a camera pointed at his general direction. Either way, I’ll probably be watching.
What may or may not have started off as banal tragedy featuring a fed-up, self-destructive celebrity plummeting towards inevitable bottom has quickly turned into a calculated potential rebound masterminded by a savvy Hollywood alum with an infectious personality and uncanny social media abilities. I’m tuning in not to watch a freak show, but to see what Sheen does with his newly minted online presence and how far it can carry him.
When celebrities seriously screw up, they’re supposed to go on Oprah. Sheen may prove Twitter can be more effective.