Can Comedic Turn Give Cruise, Others a Comeback?

Still, Cruise should be able to increase his likeability, said Bragman, who has managed crises for celeb clients like Monica Lewinsky at his Los Angeles-based firm, Fifteen Minutes.

"A little humor goes a long way," Bragman said. "The ability to laugh at yourself is key. ... The ability to wink and say, 'Yeah, I get it. I'm in on the joke,' is very important."

A prime example, he said, was Paris Hilton's "smart, funny response" to an ad run by Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, in which he used her image to take a swipe at his likely Democratic opponent Barack Obama as a vapid celebrity.

Hilton responded with a video on FunnyOrDie.com in which she said the McCain ad had inspired her to join the presidential race, and then went on to lay out some of her campaign platforms -- all the while sunbathing in a bikini.

"The thing about Paris is that she doesn't pretend to be a Rhodes Scholar or adopt children in need from foreign countries," Bragman said. "She knows her brand and she knows how to work it."

By doing the video, Hilton has made herself look smarter than the average blonde, Souris said.

"She didn't go ranting on her blog and she wasn't catty about it, which would have been her old MO," the image management consultant said. "She was very funny with it, and it made her seem clever."

So what's an A-lister to do?

"Tom got caught doing the one thing celebrities aren't supposed to do, which is being human," Potestivo said. "We can all relate to a good joke and a hard laugh, but it's next to impossible to relate to a celebrity whose net worth is well into the hundreds of millions. He's an example of an actor whose celebrity got larger than life, and no matter what move he made next, he was never going to live up to our expectation. Tom fell in love, and unfortunately chose to do so publicly. That being said, I think we need to see Tom more as a human, more as a father, more as a husband, more as an obtainable human being, much more so than the top of the Scientology chain."

"The thing with celebrities is that the public puts them on this pedestal, and then takes great pleasure in knocking them down," Potestivo said.

He points to Britney Spears as a classic example -- at the top of her game five years ago, she crumbled following her divorce from Kevin Federline in 2006. Now Spears is cleaning up her act by focusing on recording her next album and seemly surprisingly lucid during TV appearances like her guest turn on "How I Met Your Mother" and recent MTV VMA promo spots.

"But she needs to have a smash single again to really cement her return to the spotlight in a positive way," Potestivo said. "We need to see her doing what she does best, and that's playing the pop star."

In the meantime, Bragman said, Spears has wisely handed over custody of her sons to Federline, cleaned out her entourage and turned over management of her affairs to her father.

"It makes her seem more responsible, which is exactly what she needs at this stage," he said. "Anytime she looks normal, she comes off as a winner these days."

One celeb who's taking her time is Lindsay Lohan, said Potestivo.

"Part of the reason Lindsay's piqued our interest again is that bit of mystery with the whole 'is she or isn't she' thing with Samantha Ronson," Potestivo said. "We're so saturated with celebrity gossip that the little hint of mystery there intrigues us."

Plus, he added, her upcoming turn on the ABC series "Ugly Betty" will help.

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