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'Mike Tyson Mysteries' producer says boxer plays a 'comedic fantasy' of himself

Producer/writer Hugh Davidson and actress Rachel Ramras flank Mike Tyson at the 2014 New York Comic Con.
Producer/writer Hugh Davidson and actress Rachel Ramras flank Mike Tyson at the 2014 New York Comic Con.
Astrid Stawiarz

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Mike Tyson is no stranger to playing cartoonish caricatures of himself, as his cameo in "The Hangover" proved. But he's taking it a little more literally now and actually starring in his own cartoon. That's right, Mike Tyson is starring as himself in a cartoon.

The show is called "Mike Tyson Mysteries," and it's a joyously satirical take on classic cartoons such as "Scooby-Doo," but instead of a loyal dog as a sidekick, Mike partners with an alcoholic pigeon. 

We talked with Hugh Davidson, a producer and writer on "Mike Tyson Mysteries," about Mike's comedic chops, writing jokes for Norm Macdonald, and the relationship between real life Mike Tyson and his cartoon alter ego.

Interview Highlights:

Mike Tyson is playing himself as maybe a little bit clueless, obviously prone to violence; would you say that he is playing a version of himself? How would you describe the relationship between actor and character?

I think he is a comedic fantasy of Mike Tyson. The thing that makes him great is that he's willing to play that with his name on it. You want to imagine Mike as very impulsive, and I imagine that at times the real Mike Tyson is impulsive. Or that he might haul off and hit somebody is a sort of fantasy [laughs]. So, he's rash. He's got a good heart and he's trying to do the right thing, but he may not have all the facts when he decides it's time to act.

And then this whole story was supposed to be that Mike has now turned his life around, he wants to do good, as it were, and he's being guided on a path to redemption that Mike chooses to achieve through solving mysteries. [laughs]

He's served time, he has a criminal background; what were the conversations that you had, and why did you feel it was important to give him a chance to be on television?

It's very easy to fall in love with Mike; he could not be kinder. I've been around him when he walks in a crowded place, and Mike stops and talks to people. He'll talk to the janitor. And the thing he does on a daily basis is that he says, "I want to be a better person." He takes breathing classes to control his anger; he's not some guy who's just trading on his past, not in the least. He's very aware and trying to do the best he can, and it's hard not to root for that.

In your first episode, Cormac McCarthy, the author of "All the Pretty Horses" and "The Road," is unable to finish his book, or at least that's the presented mystery. And you write in the show that [Tyson] can't pronounce Cormac McCarthy, and also there's a supernatural creature called the Chupacabra, whose name he also can't say. Is that actually his performance? Did you say, "Mike, muff this up?"

The Cormac McCarthy stuff was definitely my idea, and I thought, Cormac McCarthy is an oddly difficult thing to say. It's just weird, and it's an odd name, so anyone could have gotten that name wrong. It's extra that Mike gets it wrong, maybe, but then he himself was having trouble with Chupacabra, and Mike himself thought it was funny and he would just do the performance as best he could. And that became far funnier than the intended joke.

You have Norm Macdonald playing the Drunk Pigeon and Jim Rash playing Marquess of Queensberry. They're both writers, both comedians; do they have input in the show as well? How do you work when you have people who are clearly talented at doing their own specific style of humor?

I was terribly intimidated, not by Mike Tyson, but by Norm Macdonald. I love Norm Macdonald. I do think he's the funniest person in the world, and I've always thought that. I tried to write his voice at first, and I could tell he thought I was aping his way of speaking. He's made fun of a couple of jokes, or he'll tease me about the construction of them, but at the same time he's said, "This is funny." And that's the best thing to hear.

Is there any network that this show could have worked on, other than Adult Swim?

The thing about Adult Swim that I do like is that feeling that they want it aggressively, maybe too aggressively, and they want it to almost alienate some people. I'm one of those people who hates being uncomfortable, and I don't like making people uncomfortable; I'd rather feel warm and fuzzy and comfortable, so in a weird way that's why this show looks like something from our past. It goes down easy to me. I don't want to feel weird; I feel weird enough in my life. [laughs] Who wants to feel weird?

"Mike Tyson Mysteries" airs Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.

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