It's hard to know at times whether it's more appropriate to laugh or cry over Charlie Sheen's aggressive public self-destruction campaign – but we're getting plenty of opportunity for both.
The “Two and a Half Men” star's ramblings have become an Internet meme, spurring parody videos, websites and even T-shirts. It's all very funny – and even sadder.
The cottage industry seems almost the requisite response these days to celebrity scandal amid the DIY ethos of the Internet where the comedy moves quickly and can come from anywhere. The humor also appears to be rooted in a very human reaction to a disturbing spectacle in which the star of a popular long-running sitcom is melting down before us in multiple media.
The Sheen Family Circus website – in which Sheen rantings like, "It's been a tsumani of media and I've been riding it on a mercury surfboard" are substituted for the captions in the ancient comic strip – is funny. Sheen's sons having to be removed from his own family circus of a home isn't.
The new Live the Sheen Dream website, where users can click on pictures of the actor's head to generate quotes like, "You borrow my brain for five seconds and just be like 'Dude, can't handle it. Unplug this b-----d," is a hoot. Sheen's apparent inability to unplug his own strangely wired brain isn't.
Both sites are booming, and USA Today reports that wacky quotes from the self-proclaimed "warlock" with "Adonis DNA" are being used to fill Facebook status updates and all kinds of gear, via Zazzle. "Duh! Winning!" is said to be a popular slogan making its way to a T-Shirt near you.
In the hands of the comedy pros, the Sheenisms are even more cutting. Funny or Die posted a clever video interspersing footage of Sheen with fellow noted babbler Moammar Gadhafi for a mock "interview."
Jimmy Kimmel had us laughing despite ourselves with a couple of cartoon mash-ups that are getting some YouTube action: Sheen's interview with ABC's Andrea Canning animated as a Charlie Brown visit to Lucy's psychiatry stand, and the actor’s bizarre chat with CNN's Piers Morgan re-imagined as an out-of-this-world conversation between George Jetson and Mr. Spacely.
As he’s being lampooned online, Sheen is providing more fodder via the Web, spreading his "unemployed winner" philosophy on Twitter – offering new T-Shirt material with every tweet. "My path is now clear... Defeat is not an option..!" he tweeted early Wednesday.
Let's hope that for Sheen the path to victory means getting his act together. All kidding aside, there's nothing funny about the other option.
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Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.