Charlie Sheen has been in the news so much lately that people who never gave him much thought now have him at the tips of their tongues.The managing editor of Entertainment Weekly, Jess Cagle, declared, "We can never look at Charlie Sheen the same way again; this is a unique celebrity meltdown, and it elicits a particular response... The ending of Sheen's story has yet to be told, but it's not looking good."
But as every good entertainment writer knows, the audience loves a good comeback story. And Charlie Sheen's comeback story would make Robert Downey Jr.'s look like a triviality.
Lots of Hollywood stars have ups and downs, addictions, complications, hirings and firings... How can #TigerBlood make the most of his and be "winning" again? This is a simple three-step action plan for the comeback of one Charlie Sheen.
Step One: Get it out of your system
Charlie, you love to talk. You're interviewing anywhere that'll have you. You set Twitter follower records. You're doing live USTREAM chats.
Keep doing it.
For a while, anyway. Get this all out of your system. All these thoughts you have inside you are like an infection, and you have to feed your cold. Get this virus out of your system and say everything you want, right now, to everyone who's paying attention.
It's already too late to be embarrassed by anything, so embrace the crazy. Show off your girlfriends. Brag about Adonis DNA. Talk about your family. As long as you don't go into a rant about Israel or actually start beating people up live on camera or promote dog fighting, you'll own the celebrity "authenticity and new media" space for years.
Step Two: Take it on tour
A few days ago, I mentioned on Twitter that Charlie Sheen could be the new Conan O'Brien. When Conan lost his job, he got angry, and he let it out in his way. He too started a new Twitter account, and vented through humor as is his way. And then he went on tour.
Going on tour is an interesting thing to do. For one, it gets you out of the house. Charlie needs to get out of the house, badly. It would do him some good to get out of Hollywood and travel America, talking to new people, seeing new things. Maybe get a separate manager to help him with his "standup" -- maybe tour with someone strategically helpful who can be a true road buddy.
For a second thing, he could make a lot of money. Say what you want about Charlie, but I bet he would sell out every night, even if the audience didn't have a clue what was coming. Anything could happen, and people would want to be there to see it. Smoking, drinking, swearing ... Charlie would draw bigger crowds than most any standup comedian out there.
Finally, going on tour would help Charlie build a post-meltdown "Charlie army" (much like Conan did), for financial, moral, and media support. He's got to find his fans and supporters out there, and round the turn so he can head into the final stretch. If he can show producers, web animators, media moguls (Would Barry Diller not take a chance on a semi-reformed, entertaining Charlie?), whomever, that he has a base of support, he can start to stage a real media comeback.
Step Three: Take over Playboy
To me, Charlie moving to Playboy is just a no-brainer. The magazine is having some trouble staying relevant, but it has cache, and a cool mansion, and beautiful women. Playboy needs a comeback, and Charlie might be able to help make that happen.
Here's how to do it [Hef]. After Charlie reforms a bit, gets everything out of his system, goes on tour, and is ready for the next thing, appoint him something innocuous like Vice President of Special Projects for Playboy. Give him a column on your underrated blog, The Smoking Jacket.
Then, put him in charge of strategic advice around bringing back "bunny clubs" around the country. America's looking for a bit of Mad Men nostalgia coming out of the recession, and Charlie just went on tour, effectively doing some "biz dev" for locations and contacts. Who knows, maybe he even knows some women who would want to work in the clubs?
Hef won't last forever, unfortunately, so why not move Charlie into the Mansion at some point? Make it known that he's the symbolic heir apparent of the brand. Can you think of anyone better? Sure, there will still be a board, and an editorial staff, and other checks and balances, but without the smoking jacket, multiple-female dating, gracefully aging figurehead, Playboy is just another lad mag. Install Charlie as the benevolent dictator for the future of Playboy for the next 40 years.
So, it's simple Charlie: Get this stuff out of your system. Then go underground for a while and plan your tour. Get a cool tour bus and have fun with it. Figure out who your friends are and have special guest appearances. Do Martin-Sheen-as-President-Bartlett imitations. Whatever. While you're doing that, reach out to Hef and see what happens. What do you have to lose?