Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ashton vs Charlie: There's A New Trunk On The Block 9/20/11

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, Ashton 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.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Branson: Best Dick In The World 9/3/11

Everyone recommended melatonin to conquer jet-lag.

Unfortunately, I was so jet-lagged, I told everyone I had taken methadone, which isn’t the same thing at all, and I then had to make a lot of frantic phone-calls to explain that I was not coming off heroin, nor, indeed, had ever been on it.

Anyway, back to the melatonin. I read up a bit about it and gleaned that the only negative was that it made you dream. As my dreams are very vivid anyway, especially in relation to a couple of people in LA (weapons of mass personal destruction feature strongly in those), I couldn’t see the harm, and so downed one before my long haul flight back to the UK.

It wasn’t good. I dreamed I had killed someone and was heading for Death Row quicker than you could say “Last meal curry and chips”.

I also dreamed that a policeman found a gun just as Prince Charles was about to do a walkabout, and threw the weapon into a bush shortly before HRH’s arrival. I wasn’t happy about this lapse in security but luckily woke up before taking the officer to task.

I was flying Air New Zealand but have decided to transfer my allegiance back to Virgin Atlantic; I just can’t take the stress of the ANZ points. With Virgin, you accumulate points and then use them for a guaranteed upgrade. On ANZ, with the “complimentary upgrade” you acquire with points, you often don’t know until the minute before boarding whether you have it or not.

It can be all the difference between sitting for ten hours next to that fat bloke with BO standing next to you in the queue or having your own pod and hibernating for the entire flight.

There’s also the Virgin lounge at Heathrow, which is like a holiday in itself, even though it’s not quite as good as it used to be. To avoid the possibility of the masseurs’ getting repetitive strain injury, they now pummel you with a wheat bag, which, quite frankly, is like being hit with a bag of Tesco shopping, although probably not as effective. The wine isn’t as good, either, although given that they change it often, that hardly matters.

On board, Virgin Business has a bar, which serves as a terrific networking venue; and the in-flight entertainment surpasses ANZ, whose content is not only much older, but comes to you via sets of headphones that enable you to hear everything that people in adjoining seats are listening to.

At least ANZ allows you to watch stuff until the last minute, though; the last hour of the Virgin flight is hell – the Branson clan advertising various charitable endeavours (I admire their altruism, but not when I’m knackered; please change it to the beginning of the flight), followed by the worst music ever composed, which is what you really don’t need after ten hours in the air.

Neither airline comes up to scratch on the food: a Virgin dining plate is so small, it could pass for an eye patch; and although ANZ boasts three great chefs, whose menus are fine, the food is ruined by being laden with way too much butter and so much salt you can’t help wondering if Lot’s wife has jumped into the pan along with the meat.

I was informed that salt is a good preservative, which I know of course; but when dehydration is one of the key discomforts about flying, surely the last thing you need is something that is going to exacerbate the problem.

So I remain very loyal to Mr Branson, who, all things considered, delivers the better product. He also has amazingly loyal and efficient staff, who respond to complaints and enquiries with efficiency and kindness. He also provides me with a credit card that enables me to acquire so many points, I am fast on the way to owning one of the aircraft.

I was really upset that his home burned down on Necker Island and wondered whether I could give him some points to help the rebuild, but figured I need them more than he does. In terms of flying, he pretty much gets it right, and ANZ’s new super dooper planes with white leather still don’t make up for the fact that the reception staff at the Star Alliance lounge used by ANZ at Heathrow are about as friendly as the Gestapo with a hangover.

They really need to learn from the ever fantastic Thierry at the ANZ lounge in LA. Great man, shame about the meagre offerings at the buffet, including a butternut squash soup that I mistook for the contents of the lavatory.

I still can’t quite believe that after ten years of refusing to fly anywhere, I am spending so much time in the air. It’s rather a good metaphor for where my life has been, but finally, this week, I finished my book – writing, not reading, that is. It’s been a long time in the making – over 20 years, to be precise, owing to the many incarnations it has endured along the way.

I didn’t feel any sense of achievement, which I suppose comes only if somebody agrees to publish the damned thing; but at least it’s done.

Maybe Mr Branson would like to buy it for people to read on his planes.

Trust me: it’s a lot better than the racket you’ll hear coming in to land.