Mike Tyson’s life has had more twists and turns than a Dickens novel. So it’s fitting that Tyson is starring as himself in a new television series. What’s surprising is that the show is not a gritty drama chronicling his rapid rise from juvenile delinquent to World Heavyweight Champion and his epic descent which included a rape conviction, bankruptcy, and alcohol and drug addiction. It’s an animated comedy for Adult Swim. The Mike Tyson Mysteries is a subversive take on Scooby Doo that uses elements of Tyson’s life, including his pet pigeons and his face tattoo, along with his famous lisp, for comedic effect. After a memorable cameo in The Hangover, a reality series for Animal Planet and the success of his autobiographical one-man show on Broadway, Tyson has, against the odds, crafted a redemption arc for himself, with a new career as a performer and a new image as a family man.
In an interview at San Diego Comic-Con, Tyson insisted that he hasn’t reinvented himself. “I think at stages of my life I grow and I learn from mistakes and I grow up and become more responsible," he says. "It’s just stages of my life that I need to grow more on and just moments in time because I have an open mind. I’m still working on it.”
He acknowledged that 20 years ago, he would have never have lampooned himself in a cartoon. “Every now and then they’d bust my chops and [impersonate] me on Bart Simpson [The Simpsons], and I would get mad and threaten the guys [on the show] if I’d see them. I took myself entirely too serious back then,” he reflects.
Now, he isn’t troubled by any of the ridiculous scenarios or lines that the Mike Tyson Mysteries writers concoct for him. “I was not concerned about ‘I want to have some creative control. I want to be involved.’ Just give me a scenario and let me do my best. That’s the kind of performer I am. I can’t [think] of my own scenario. I’m just like ‘Give it to me. Boom.’” Even if he were given dialogue that gave him pause, Tyson claims, “I’m very comfortable being uncomfortable. I just go for it… I’m not afraid to be a jerk or anything or laugh at myself anymore.”
Tyson ultimately wants to portray characters other than himself. “I want to do everything. I want to do a musical. I want to do everything. I want to do a Broadway show on the stage… I want to be a serious actor one day.”
But for now, Tyson's latest project is tackling the world of animation, which includes Tyson's lifelong passion for pigeons. He explains why the birds were a source of solace for him during his rough childhood. “Where I come from [the Brownsville neighborhood in Brooklyn], it’s like a culture, like a person has horses or something," he states. "Everyone that I’m associated with in my neighborhood, we all have [them]. Most of my life is with my friends looking for a stray bird that’s trying to fly. Everybody knows somebody that’s got pigeons. That’s just who we are. We live our lives. We love our birds.”
Tyson sees aspects of himself and his family in his favorite breed of pigeons, Rollers, which are known for their ability to tumble in the air. “I like Rollers. Homers make the money, but I just like Rollers. They’re a lot like me.” He further explains, “There’s different kinds of Rollers. You may have watched Sir Anthony Hopkins [in Silence of the Lambs]. In the movie he said you don’t mix two deep rollers together. You have to [put a deep one with a] shallow one, and my mother and my father, in metaphor they’re both deep rollers. Tyson’s father left his mother shortly after Tyson was born. His mother was an alcoholic who neglected him and died when he was 16. “When you mix two deep rollers, they clash," he asserts. "They kill themselves, they can’t stop. They get into the roll so deep that they’re in a suction cup. They can’t stop because they’re going too fast and they crash on the ground.”
Tyson feels, though, he has finally learned from his parents' mistakes: “I’m descended from two deep rollers, but I’m alert not to crash. That’s my metaphor... I learn not to be too reckless and not to hit the ground.”
'Mike Tyson Mysteries' will premiere this fall on Adult Swim.