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Perhaps the strongest sign yet that Charlie Sheen has hopped off the violent torpedo of truth and is taking a more benign ride on the not-so-crazy train comes in a funny preview for his upcoming Comedy Central Roast.
A camouflage-smeared Sheen rises from what appears to be a steamy swamp, ruminating on how low he’s sunk, in an "Apocalypse Now" takeoff. His inner monologue is interrupted by the classic film's star – his father, Martin.
"Charlie! Get inside and wash your face!" the elder Sheen barks, beckoning Charlie out of what turns out to be a hot tub he's sharing with two young beauties. "It's past your bedtime."
Martin Sheen's cameo is significant in that he kept a decidedly low public profile during his son's all-too-public meltdown, which began with his arrest at the Plaza Hotel last October. We're taking Martin Sheen’s newfound ability to poke fun at his son's travails as a tentative signal that just maybe Charlie is on the road to some form of recovery.
Either way, we’re entering what seems to be the next phase of the younger Sheen's career – an unlikely new start we'll call Charlie's Crazy Comeback.
His decline, complete with bizarre stream-of-(perhaps altered)-consciousness web shows and his disastrous "truth" tour, turned him into a sad joke. Now we’re seeing glimmers of a calmer Sheen, one who's happy to be the butt of the joke, while many are just happy he's still among us.
As his former "Two and a Half Men" co-star Jon Cryer put it on "Ellen" this week: "I was worried that Charlie was going to die."
The Comedy Central Roast airs Monday – by no coincidence the same night as the premiere of the newly reconstituted "Men," in which Sheen's character reportedly gets killed off and replaced by Ashton Kutcher.
The roast – which includes host Seth MacFarlane reading Sheen's "obituary" – might not mark the rebirth of his financially successful career. But Sheen is striving to keep himself in the public eye while trying to shed the worst aspects of his image, via guest shots on "The Tonight Show" and "Today," during which he sounds relatively rational.
"I thought I could come back, kinda like you did," Sheen told Jay Leno Thursday night, referring to when Leno lost his primetime 10 p.m. show on NBC and was bumped up to 11:35p.m. about a year ago. (Leno quipped in response, "Yeah, yeah at least one of us got the job back.")
On a more serious note, Sheen told NBC’s Matt Lauer in an interview airing Friday: "I said some stuff and then it caught such traction globally and instantly that I couldn't really put out the fire. I had to keep fueling it."
His fuel, he suggested to Lauer, no longer includes illicit substances, though he didn't say how long he's been sober.
There’s no way of knowing whether Sheen will maintain his seemingly even keel. It hasn’t been all that long since the last of the unbalanced antics during which the self-proclaimed “warlock” slowly self-destructed before our eyes. Let’s hope his demons don't include an addiction to attention – which can only lead to more behavior hurtful to him and his loved ones.
In the meantime, check out the (NSFW) roast promos below as Charlie Sheen works on his latest redefinition of "winning."
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.