Several years ago, a comic book convention would have been the last place you’d expect to see Mike Tyson hanging out. But there he is, the 48-year-old who was once known as the baddest man on the planet, with a Cheshire Cat sized grin plastered across his face as he walks off the stage for his San Diego Comic Con panel. He has just entered into the Aqua room inside of the Hilton Bayfront, where less than an hour earlier a group of fans were gave a standing ovation to a sizzle reel of Tyson’s upcoming animated series on Adult Swim, The Mike Tyson Mysteries.
It’s somewhat ironic to see the boxer, who made mincemeat out of his opponents and was always in the public eye due to his reckless behavior, star in an animated series as a sleuth alongside a neurotic ghost, a talking pigeon with a drinking problem and an adopted Korean daughter who was left on his doorstep. If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. It’s the latest chapter of the Tyson renaissance that has seen him go from feared boxer to comedic actor. But it’s not a redemption song by any means. “I don’t believe in redemption,” Tyson explains to a small group of reporters after the panel. “There’s no such thing as a new person, you just don’t act the old way anymore. We are who we are and we learn through our mistakes.”
Regardless of his mistakes, Tyson has turned over a new leaf and taken out a second lease on life. The Mike Tyson Mysteries is another page in Tyson’s thespian chapter, which includes cameos in films and television shows such as The Hangover and How I Met Your Mother, a one-man show that hit 36 cities
The outrageous cartoon is an inebriated version of Scooby Doo that finds Tyson trying to make the world a better place by solving mysteries. “I suck at mystery solving!” Tyson says with a laugh. And that translates onto the small screen as Tyson oftentimes gets sidetracked with a whole lot of random occurrences that would sound preposterous if it weren’t for Tyson.
“Sometimes he doesn’t even get to the mystery,” producer Hugh Davidson explained. He gives several examples of the show’s plot points that find Tyson veering way off course. One particular episode will find Tyson’s adopted daughter kidnapped after his pigeon is unable to pay off his gambling debts. Of course, ridiculousness and hijinks ensue. “At the end of the day, by the time you try to pay lip service to a plot, you’re going to end up with a bunch of action sequences that nobody is watching The Mike Tyson Mysteries to see. You just want it to be funny.”
One look at the sizzle reel will give you all you need to know about Tyson’s mystery solving skills. And for a show that will be planted with Adult Swim’s lineup of great animated comedies, the retro vibe and Tyson’s ability to sound at home in this absurd alternate universe will likely see the show strike gold. Whether he’s riding a tiger, punching out a dinosaur or gearing up to fight a chupacabra, one thing the show won’t be is predictable.
“You read these insane scripts and then you see it actually come to life,” says Jim Rash, who voices the ghost known as Marquees of Queensbury (Or, as Tyson will simply call him “Marcus”). “You hear about it for a while and when you see it you’re kind of like ‘Yeah, that’s pretty much what I was imagining. It’s really incredible.”
For Tyson, this is yet another opportunity to show himself in a different light. After spending years of playing the role of a tough guy, he finds solace in poking fun at himself.
“I’ve learned not to take myself too serious anymore,” he says while fiddling with a Comic Con collectible bag that bears the artwork to his show. “I always believed that I was put here to entertain people. I believe that a couple hundred years ago in another life I was on a slave plantation and I was doing something to entertain. That’s just who I am. When I used to do it, it was from a violent perspective. Now it’s just fun.”
The rousing ovation Tyson received after the panel wrapped was partially because the cartoon is downright hilarious but it’s also because Tyson has managed to carve out a new career when most considered his life after boxing filled with hopelessness and self destruction. But Tyson has found his way out of the darkness and has almost completely shed the volatile image that was pinned to him. “Think about where I was back in 2005 to where I am now,” Tyson asks. “I’m known as an actor to kids now. A 16 year old kid will say “there goes Mike Tyson the actor” and his mother will have to explain that I wasn’t an actor originally. That’s funny to me.”
Although Tyson still prefers live acting to voicing a character, he admits he gave everything to this role to prove to people that he isn’t just getting a pass because he’s Mike Tyson. For Tyson, being the best wasn’t just something he wanted to be inside of the ring. He wants that for every aspect of his life.
“When I had to be the baddest man on the planet I would play it to the hilt,” Tyson says of doing whatever it took to embody a character. “I would bite your ear, I’ma hit you after the bell and you’re going to be afraid of me. I’m going to be the most feared man in the world but now you’ll see I’m the funniest guy in the world. Whatever it is, I want to be the best at it.”
What Mike Tyson has accomplished in his 48 years of life is astounding. Aside from the millions of dollars and world titles, Tyson has had an opportunity to appear in the WWE, several films and television shows, released a New York Times best-selling book with Undisputed Truth and so much more. But this is the first time he’s had his own cartoon and he is damn sure proud of it.
“This ranks really high for me in anything that I’ve every achieved because it was not expected,” Tyson says. “I come from a really dark side of entertainment. But now I entertain kids. That’s really cool… but creepy too.”
The Mike Tyson Mysteries will premiere this fall on Adult Swim.