Whether it’s chewing the ear off Evander Holyfield, having his famous ex rebound with a pre-fame Brad Pitt, or punching out Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover, the zany career of former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson has taken him to some pretty bizarre places. Mike Tyson Mysteries, a new cartoon series airing this fall, might be the weirdest.
On the show, Tyson is recast as a kinder, gentler, and funnier version of himself—only this time, he’s a detective tasked with solving mysteries. He’s joined on his quests by Yung Hee, an adopted Korean teenage daughter (Rachel Ramras), who acts as the brains of the bunch, i.e. Velma; the ghost of the Marquess of Queensbury (Community’s Jim Rash), a 19th-century nobleman who developed the rules of boxing; and last but not least, a foul-mouthed, alcoholic talking pigeon (voiced by Norm Macdonald). Tyson is, of course, a fan of our feathered friends, owning an army of 2,000 pigeons.
Mike Tyson Mysteries was Tyson’s idea. The 48-year-old ex-pugilist with the unfortunate face tattoo grew up on Hanna-Barbera cartoons and kung-fu flicks, and the wacky show is being billed as a cross between Scooby Doo and The A-Team, though Ramras says it more closely resembles a Brady Bunch-style sitcom rather than Saturday morning cartoons.
The episodes revolve around solving mysteries (or not) brought in by Tyson’s fleet of carrier pigeons. In one episode, Yung Hee is kidnapped by ruthless gangsters because of the pigeon’s gambling debts. Another sees the gang help author Cormack McCarthy—a play on the author of The Road, Blood Meridian, and countless other novels—finish a novel after the author is struck by a crippling case of writer’s block. And yet another sees Tyson pay a visit to IBM, only to find the man who enlisted his help trapped inside a computer.
“We kind of had to work hard to make those crazy elements seem grounded,” says writer and executive producer Hugh Davidson (Robot Chicken).
And the first footage of the series, which debuted at San Diego Comic-Con, looks hilarious—so much so that Tyson and co. received one of the longer standing ovations of the weekend.
Despite Tyson’s volatile nature and checkered past—he is, after all, a convicted rapist posing as a cartoon detective, which brings a whole new meaning to the word “irony”—Davidson says he’s enjoying working with Tyson.
“As he says himself, he’s half-crazy, but Norm Macdonald is, too,” Davidson told The Daily Beast. “They’re unpredictable people. With Mike, you never know. It’s like poking the tiger. At some point, every once in a while, the tiger reminds you that he could take a bite out of you, so in the show we try to hold on to that. You never know…someone could say the wrong thing. He could get pissed off, and you never know what could happen. We want that to be in the show, so that the show feels a little dangerous—which I think adds to the comedy.”
As for Tyson, whose furious anger helped make him one of the most feared boxers in the history of the sport, he’s grateful for this career about-face.
“I’m glad I don’t have to punch people no more,” says Tyson. “God, that was stressful, You knock the guy out, you’re so geeked up, you hit somebody else, you’ve got an officer involved and the next thing you know you’ve got a lawyer, you’ve got a jury,” he says, addressing his past sins.
Mike Tyson Mysteries is also another footnote in one of the unlikeliest second acts in history. For years, he was known as a convicted rapist/ear-biter, but now, he’s spun his notorious image into Hollywood roles (see: The Hangover films), a one-man Broadway show, and this, a cartoon series.
“Mike has had a life that’s had a lot of ups and downs, and now he’s wanting to solve mysteries to help people, like a person that wants to give back,” explains Davidson. “The ghost is there to help him do the right thing. He’s there to guide him on a spiritual path, on a redemptive path.”
“I don’t believe in rehabilitation, but in change,” adds Tyson. “I want to be the best at everything I do.”