Mike Tyson on Undisputed Truth | Interview
The retired boxer turns monologuist in Undisputed Truth.
Retired from boxing since 2005, Mike Tyson is now looking to bend (not bite) ears. The controversial two-time heavyweight champion becomes the world’s most unlikely monologuist with Undisputed Truth, the one-man look at his life written by wife Kiki Spicer and directed by Spike Lee. After Broadway and Vegas runs, the show comes to Chicago this weekend. The lisping 46-year-old spoke by phone about trying to knock people out with words instead of fists.
Salaam alaikum. Alaikum as-salaam!
Are you planning to hang with Louis Farrakhan while in town? That would be cool to do! He was at my house a week ago. It was pretty awesome. I take a lot of spiritual advice from him. God knows I need it.
How does performing onstage compare to boxing in a ring? It’s pretty similar, except I don’t have to go to the hospital after every show. [Laughs]
Onstage, you’re going toe-to-toe with yourself. Yeah. No mistakes are allowed, and the cards are stacked against me.
Because you’re not the most natural performer? Yeah. I’m my biggest adversary. If anyone ever treated me the way I treat myself, I might kill them!
Some critics who saw Undisputed on Broadway felt you’re cashing in. I want to make a buck like everyone else in this world, but I’m not going to get rich doing this stuff. It’s going to pay bills and feed me.
So why tell your story in such a confessional way? The need to entertain. It comes maybe from one of my relatives back in the slave days 400 years ago. They were on a plantation playing the banjo and guitar and dancing or something. And I’m not being facetious! I’m being very sincere.
You’re often seen as a court jester. Is that an unfair characterization? A wise man once told me, “Only a smart man can play a fool, but a fool cannot play a smart man.” I’m happy to be in a position to portray myself as a court jester and get paid.
The show is scripted, but you’re better known for your unscripted lines. That’s what my wife says!
Why does your mouth get you in trouble? I have a bad filter, and I need to work on that. That’s why I can’t ad-lib much because my wife has noticed that I usually say something gutter-oriented.
On the Today show, Spike Lee had to rein you in when you said you used to be a “prostitute hunter.” Yeah, I was just being goofy in talking about my past. You have to embrace who you are.
The show touches on your gang life as a kid, your 1992 rape conviction, Holyfield’s ear. Are you remorseful? I’m not proud of what I did in my life, but I’m not going to allow someone to use that as the trump card to make me lie down and die. I’ve been surprised when the audience laughs at a tragic moment in my life. People might be under the impression that this is a stand-up act. But this is not comedy. I had some high highs and some low lows. And in between that: nothing. Zilch.
You deny your rape conviction in the show as you have for two decades. You still feel the need to publicly declare your innocence? I have to deny it because I didn’t do it. If I said I did do it, I’d truly be lying and be totally imprisoned within my mind.
Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth plays the Cadillac Palace Friday 15 and Saturday 16.