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Charlie Sheen’s Mad As Hell and He’s Not Going To Take It Anymore

Charlie Sheen’s Mad As Hell and He’s Not Going To Take It Anymore (photo)

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Charlie Sheen’s been quoting “Apocalypse Now” a lot during his ongoing public meltdown — “‘You have the right to kill me, but you do not have the right to judge me.’ Boom. That’s the whole movie. That’s life.” — but the film he should be watching to understand his own life is “Network,” which predicted just about everything in our modern telvision landscape, including Sheen’s recent rise from sitcom has-been to media circus ringleader.

If it’s been a while since you’ve seen director Sidney Lumet and writer Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network” — or if you haven’t seen it at all — it tells the story of Beale (Peter Finch), an aging network anchor who reacts to the news of his impending firing by using one his last shows to announce his intention to kill himself on live television. His bosses’ first reaction is to suspend him, but they reverse themselves when they realize that Beale’s public meltdown draws big ratings. Though Beale is undeniably insane, he’s also undeniably good TV, so the executives at UBS keep him on the air.

On Saturday, over 100,000 people tuned in to UStream to watch Charlie Sheen become Howard Beale. They could have watched him every week on CBS’ “Two and a Half Men” until his erratic behavior and insulting comments about his bosses got him fired. But all those Ustreamers were much more interested in Sheen’s post-dismissal behavior: Beale-ian rants about violence and persecution and rage. Sheen played the part so thoroughly he even provided his own Beale-ian catchphrases. Beale famously encouraged his viewers to go to their window and yell “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” On Saturday, Sheen wanted people to do the same with his catchphrase: “Duh, winning!”

That parallels between Beale and Sheen’s freakouts are eerie. After Beale is suspended from his gig on UBS, he becomes front page, top story news for every other media outlet in the country. And in the days after CBS finally fired Sheen from “Two and a Half Men” he appeared as a massive ratings draw for NBC’s “The Today Show,” “ABC’s “20/20,” CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight,” and “The Today Show” again. The only difference with “Network” is that CBS didn’t look at the ratings their competitors were milking from Sheen’s meltdown and grab for a piece of it themselves. Maybe they would have, if only Sheen, bitter over his firing, had let them.

The content of their screeds are similar too:

“I probably took more [drugs] than anybody could survive… I was bangin’ seven-gram rocks and finishing them because that’s how I roll, because I have one speed, one gear. Go. I’m different. I have a different constitution. I have a different brain. I have a different heart. I got tiger blood, man. Dying’s for fools, dying’s for amateurs.” — Charlie Sheen

“This is not a psychotic episode. This is a cleansing moment of clarity. I am imbued, Max. I am imbued with some special spirit. It’s not a religious feeling at all. It is a shocking eruption of great electrical energy. I feel vivid and flashing as if suddenly I had been plugged into some great electro-magnetic field. I feel connected to all living things, to flowers, birds, to all the animals of the world and even to some great unseen living force, what I think the Hindus call prana.” — Howard Beale

You could argue that Charlie Sheen hasn’t been a mentally well man for a while; you’d certainly having a tougher time arguing that he was in complete control of his faculties while he was trashing his room at the Plaza Hotel in an alleged coke rage. In one interview, Sheen joked that the only drug he was on was “Charlie Sheen.” But really the only thing he was worried about going cold turkey on was fame. Like Beale — another aging, single, substance abuser — it was the impending loss of the television spotlight that finally pushed Sheen over the edge. In an environment of media consolidation and political upheaval eerily similar to the one in “Network” — in one scene, Faye Dunaway marvels at the way Beale’s breakdown is more widely covered than skyrocketing oil prices and a civil war in Beirut — Sheen, a faded TV star speaking his unbalanced mind, has become the biggest story in the country.

Sheen’s rants don’t have Beale’s political dimensions — at least so far. So I don’t think we’ll see Sheen reenacting the apocalyptic end of “Network” (then again, the title of his proposed autobiography is “Apocalypse Me,” so who knows). Regardless, the people tuning in to watch Sheen putz around his home office on UStream are doing it for the same reason they fictional throngs flocked to Beale: because people in the worst emotional states make the best television.

One of my favorite scenes in “Network” is Beale’s announcement of his intention to commit suicide, seen from inside the control room at UBS. As he says he’s going to blow his brains out, a producer responds with “10 seconds to commercial.” The UBS staff is so dead inside from their years working in the TV industry that they don’t even notice his threat. Beale warned that watching television turns people into “humanoids.” Maybe. Or maybe television’s appeal is that it permits us to think the people on it are humanoids, which allows us to view its programming free of our sense of empathy. We watch reality television — the socially acceptable version of lunatics like Beale or Sheen — cheering for people’s failure, laughing when their hearts break, without ever considering the emotional impact these decisions must have on their real lives. They give us 45 minutes of entertainment for a potential lifetime of misery and shame.

Beale’s bosses fancy him a “modern day prophet renouncing the hypocrisies of our times.” Maybe the saddest part about the Charlie Sheen drama is that our real life Howard Beale doesn’t even renounce our hypocrisy. He only reinforces it.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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