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Weekly Q&A: Mike Tyson on having an action figure and seeing himself in cartoon form

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Mike Tyson
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

Mike Tyson says he agreed to be depicted in cartoon form for one overarching reason: “I get to be myself. I can curse. I can be a grown-up. It’s a cartoon for adults.”

So it is that Tyson is the lead character in Mike Tyson Mysteries, which premieres October 27 at 10:30 p.m. on Adult Swim. Broadcast in 15-minute segments, the show will run through November, then return to the air in January.

The cartoon follows the escapades of Tyson as a mystery-solving sleuth with an oddball entourage. He’s joined by an oft-drunk pigeon that once was a man, voiced by Norm Macdonald; the ghost of the Marquess of Queensbury, voiced by Jim Rash of Community and Reno 911!; and Yung Hee, an adopted Korean daughter left on his doorstep as a child, voiced by Rachel Ramras of Mad. Hugh Davidson, once a member of the Groundlings comedy troupe, is producer and writer. In the premiere, the group helps author Cormac McCarthy finish his latest novel.

During your stage show, Undisputed Truth, you mentioned the character Velma from Scooby-Doo. You said she reminded you of a counselor you had been seeing after your boxing career ended. Yeah. Didn’t you love that? I was a big fan of Scooby-Doo, and that character. She was different, yeah.

Any other cartoons you liked growing up? I liked the superhero Space Ghost, because it was funny. I really liked Popeye—definitely Popeye. “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.” That’s me. The way he dealt with Bluto—it was classic.

You mentioned at the screening of Mike Tyson Mysteries in LA that the show would do really well among high white guys, mostly because high white guys like Norm Macdonald a lot. Yeah (laughs). There’s no doubt about it. Hey, when you really look at it and think about it, a lot of cartoons have been made for adults. Popeye and all that stuff, that was too sophisticated for kids, especially back then. They only recently started making cartoons especially for kids.

Going back, I really felt the Warner Bros. cartoons were targeted specifically at adults. Warner Bros., Bugs Bunny was off the hook. He was crazy. The way he dealt with Elmer Fudd. Yosemite Sam, he was crazy. This is what kids don’t know. I just found out a couple of years ago that roadrunners are carnivores. Think about that. They eat meat. They would attack and eat a quail, kill it and eat it. Boom. But I always thought that roadrunners were a really docile, meek animal until I saw them at work. This thing about them always eating birdseed is bullsh*t. It’s a crock.

What’s it feel like to see yourself depicted as a cartoon character? I feel it gives me a lot of range, to be seen like that, some flexibility as a voice actor where I can be funny. It’s in an infantile state, so we’ll see how I feel about it after this first season. I will be involved in developing storylines as the show goes forward.

There are Mike Tyson action figures being marketed for this show. What’s that like? (Laughs) In my little blue sweat suit! But I have been an action figure before, when I did the Rocky Balboa movie. I had a doll figure then. A company in Hong Kong has made a few of me throughout different stages of my career. It’s weird stuff. They have the little tattoo and everything.

Does being the center of a show like this motivate you to lead a principled life, to stay out of trouble? Because if you don’t, the show could be compromised. Hey, listen, this is how I think: I don’t want to get into no more trouble. I want to stay home and stay away from all the bullsh*t because I’ve been there before. I know what that fall feels like, and I don’t want to ever experience that again. That’s what motivates me. I work out twice a day, I do a lot of work with the kids in school and their activities, running and playing. I just stay focused. I go shopping. I try to be normal and stay away from all the negativity. Negativity breeds like rats.

I saw you at the last Floyd Mayweather fight, and I’m impressed at the reaction you still get. I can only imagine what it feels like to be in the middle of a crowd of people trying to get at you. You know, it affects my whole family. It affects my wife, Kiki. It’s just not a normal way to live, and anyone who lives a normal life can’t understand it. They don’t want to be around that sh*t, people pushing to get to me, and it’s hard to protect them because everyone is trying to get to me. It’s crazy stuff. But the world doesn’t have to change, I have to change, and that’s what I’ve learned through this whole process.

Mike Tyson Mysteries Monday, 10:30 p.m., Adult Swim. Premieres October 27.

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