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Q&A: Mike Tyson talks about 'Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth'

In his solo stage show, Mike Tyson takes on his most controversial opponent -- himself

  • Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson
February 11, 2013|By Julia Borcherts, For RedEye

Mike Tyson is a man who's lived his life in the headlines. And along with those that made him a celebrity—the youngest heavyweight champion of the world, at age 20—came headlines documenting a darker side—the failed marriage to actress Robin Givens, a rape conviction and Evander Holyfield's right ear.

He since has become a vegan, struggled with the death of a young daughter and worked as an actor in two "Hangover" movies, as the host of Animal Planet's "Taking on Tyson" and as an inmate and rape victim on a hotly debated "Law and Order: SVU" episode.

Now, Iron Mike takes the stage to discuss his controversial life in "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth," a solo show written by his wife, Kiki Tyson, and directed by filmmaker Spike Lee, which hits Chicago as the second stop on a national tour. We caught up with him to find out more.

What can Chicago audiences expect?
They can expect to see a riveting show. I'm on stage for 90 minutes giving the audience my all. I will take them on an emotional roller coaster ride into the crazy world I call my life.

How did the project come to be?
My wife and I were inspired after watching Chazz Palminteri's one-man show, "A Bronx Tale." We left inspired and I love entertaining people and wanted to challenge myself. I told my wife I wanted to try doing my own show about my life. My wife immediately starting drafting something. Then, a few weeks later we had a random encounter with a producer, Adam Steck [of] SPI Entertainment. He wanted to produce a one-man show about my life. It was like the stars were aligned, because we had already started working on a show concept.

How did Spike Lee become involved?
We did our show in Las Vegas for a two-week run. The following day, I had to leave the country on business and Spike Lee called me. Spike said that he and Jimmy Nederlander wanted to take our show to Broadway. We did a two-week run last summer on Broadway and now we are taking the show on a national tour.

Where are you at in your life that influenced your to approach the show?
I am in a really peaceful place. I am very happy and grateful to have an amazing support team of family and friends. I am comfortable with the man that I am today. This translates into my show and my desire to tell my story. It's about triumphing over your inner demons and thanking God for helping you through.

What surprised you most about your wife's script?
We are a team and developing the script was a cohesive undertaking. She was very respectful during this process, so nothing surprised me. However, initially, she drafted a more sugar-coated perspective of my life. I realize she was trying to protect me, but I had to remind her that I'm telling my undisputed truth. It's not always nice, but it is the truth. She understood and redrafted the content to fit more in format with my gritty life.

How does walking on stage compare to walking into the ring?
They are actually similar. Both are performances—just different styles of entertainment. But walking on the stage is more unnerving. When it's just you onstage, you have no one to blame but yourself for a flawed performance, so the stakes are higher. I have nerves until I hit the stage—but then the love from the audience relaxes me. I really love performing.

Do you worry about hecklers?
I'm a big boy. The question is, can hecklers handle me? Just kidding. I'm heckled sometimes. It comes with the territory, I suppose. I'm OK with it. It makes the night unique.

What's the most unexpected thing that's happened at a performance?
I suppose the most unexpected thing is when I start really enjoying my storytelling and start to ad lib funny anecdotes. I surprise myself sometimes at the stuff I say. People come up to me and say, "I had no idea you were so funny."

You've now acted in movies, on TV and onstage. Which do you prefer?
I can't pick one over the other, really. They all have their unique qualities. But I always like to challenge myself and theater to me is the most challenging because there aren't any second takes.

***

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth
Go: 7:30 p.m. Friday; 8 p.m. Saturday at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St.
Tickets: $50-$95. 800-775-2000; broadwayinchicago.com

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