Depending on who you asked, Charlie Sheen either “brought his A-game” or “sucked” during the second stop of his My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not an Option live-show tour in Chicago on Sunday.
In either case, the crowd was a lot more welcoming than the disastrous Detroit show the night before. This time, only a handful of people walked out of the 3,600-seat Chicago Theatre, which was about three-quarters full, and few if any shouts of “refund!” could be heard.
And, as Sheen himself Tweeted: “TOOK ONE NIGHT BUT HE IS #winning. Yet again.”
Though by no means an overwhelming success, the performance was quite a turnaround from the kickoff show in the Motor City, which critics widely panned and the crowd met with boos, shouts of “refund” and mass walk-outs.
Chicago’s version of Sheen’s show differed from the free-for-all in Detroit in that it assumed a talk-show format, with Sheen and a friend of his onstage. The two sat in chairs, with their image beamed behind them onto a larger screen. There was no opening act, video clips or music as in the inaugural show, which Sheen later termed “an experiment.”
In fact, perhaps in an effort to head off another disaster, Sheen implored the crowd “not to become [expletive] Detroit tonight. Let’s show Detroit how it’s [expletive] done,” and acknowledged the prior show was “a horror.”
In response, some in the Chicago group started a “Detroit sucks” chant.
During the 90-minute show, Sheen’s pal, who was never introduced, asked the actor questions about his marriages (“marriage sucks”), his two “goddesses” (“the definition of love is that they have not disallowed me everything that makes me happy”), drug and porn use (“I discovered the Internet and crack on the same night. Wow.”), some of his roles (he said he was supposed to play the title role in The Karate Kid but was already committed to Grizzly 2), Two and a Half Men (“If they ask me to go back, I will. I signed a contract.”) and former costar Jon Cryer (“I said some [expletive] about him that was wrong. I love him. He’s a rock star”).
Sheen, 45, provided rambling answers, peppered with frequent obscenities, and many times wandered off topic and even displayed the contents of his bag (flashlight, pocketknife, anti-pain medication, a bag of pistachios and a mini ketchup bottle, among other things).
“I keep digressing,” he admitted. “I can’t stay on topic.”
It was a loud and raucous show throughout, with fans screaming questions, compliments and insults, including “You suck!” and “Shut it!” At one point, a large, hairy man in the audience took off his lime green polo shirt and tossed it onstage. A wiry Sheen, who threw a tour T-shirt back – his chest is ripped, and tattooed – sported the XXL-sized gift shirt the rest of the night, though it was too big and, he complained, way too hot.
Afterward, the reaction from the crowd was mixed. “I liked it,” said Bryon Winkelman, 34, who paid $115 for his ticket and drove 90 minutes from Walkertown, Ind., for the show. “He’s obviously a natural comic. He can come back with something witty to the remarks people are saying … I like the fact that he’s very unpredictable.”
Another fan was Becky Clauss, 32, of St. Louis, Mo. “I thought I was going to hate it, but I loved it,” she said. “He was very real, very candid and very personal. He put humor on the life challenges he is facing … He brought his A-game.”
But Jeff Votteler, 33, of Orland Park, Ill., was not as pleased. “It’s horrible,” he said. “He’s trying to play into the crowd and he’s not being real.”
Another mixed reaction came from Morgan Be, 22, of Chicago. “It’s awkward. We’re laughing at his family stories,” she said, but later added, “I like that it’s ridiculous. He has no shame.”
After the Windy City show, Sheen quietly slipped into a nightclub, according to the Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile, back in Detroit, the Free Press reported of the Chicago performance: “Sheen, in the opening minutes, told a heckler to head back to Detroit.”
Two shows down, 20 more to go.
• Additional reporting by STEPHEN M. SILVERMAN