The Adult Swim animated series Mike Tyson Mysteries is hilariously odd and surprisingly charming. While Mike Tyson solves various mysteries that are sent to him by carrier pigeon, he is aided by the Mike Tyson Mystery Team – the Ghost of the Marquess of Queensberry (Jim Rash), his adopted Korean daughter Yung Hee (Rachel Ramras), and a pigeon who was once a man (Norm MacDonald).
During this recent interview to promote the new show, Mike Tyson and producer Hugh Davidson talked about where the story ideas come from, how Cormac McCarthy ended up in the premiere, his persona in this cartoon, the inspiration of Scooby Doo, how the pigeon and ghost came into the story, what fans can expect from this season, and the secret to successfully reinventing yourself. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
HUGH DAVIDSON: They pretty much come from me. Since it’s like an old-fashioned mystery show, it seemed good to veer away from those being too complicated. Being a simple thing is good for more grounded comedic elements to work. And then, on the writing side of it, we try to save the crazy for the end.
MIKE TYSON: It’s crazy from the beginning. It’s the perpetualness of craziness.
DAVIDSON: That’s true, too. But hopefully, there’s a turbo boost of crazy, at the end. You should know the relationships and understand what is happening, before too much crazy stuff happens.
What made you include Cormac McCarthy in the premiere?
DAVIDSON: He’s just a really good writer. He’s a reclusive writer, and that’s mysterious. I’m a Cormac McCarthy fan. That’s the kind of mysteries we’ll be solving in the show. Why is he reclusive? He’s an interesting guy. It just seemed like an inappropriate mystery for this team, and that’s part of the fun of it. We look for the worst thing that they could be doing, a lot of the time, for comedic effect.
Mike, what can you say about your persona in this cartoon? Will you be making a little bit of fun of yourself?
TYSON: Will, [Hugh] is making fun of me because he wrote it. When they first approached me about the project, I was a little apprehensive because the pay wasn’t much and the concept was really odd. What was I going to do? And I had no idea what Adult Swim was. At first, I thought it was a bunch of old, rich senior citizen white guys, learning how to swim in an exotic lake. So, I had no idea, but I was educated. My wife explained what Adult Swim was. I asked, “Is there a possibility that I can curse?” I just wanted to do something different. When I first participated, it was weird because I was saying weird stuff, and I couldn’t pronounce some of the words and names. Cormac McCarthy was very difficult to say, at first. And then, I saw one of the sketches from an episode they had already sketched 15 minutes of, and I got excited. I thought, “This looks good. It looks like a real cartoon.” So then, I celebrated my participation. Now, when they call me to do the show, I run to it because I know it’s gonna be sensational. Before, I just thought it was going to be bullshit.
DAVIDSON: We had written it so that Mike was going to say Cormac McCarthy in a crazy way, each time. He said Cormac McCarthy perfectly, but he kept saying Chupacabra in new and different ways, every time, and that became much funnier.
TYSON: They asked me to do a cartoon, and I’d never done a cartoon. At the height of my career, cartoon people wouldn’t have touched me with a thousand-foot pole. I’m down on my deepest luck and now they’re like, “Hey, Mike, you wanna do this?” I’m getting all these deals now, and I don’t know if it’s sympathy, but I get a lot of things. I thought, “Why not try to have a cartoon?” I wanted a cartoon before, but never had a cartoon. It’s really big stuff for me. It gets no bigger, when you consider the conglomerate that I’m working with, at this particular moment.
Was Scooby Doo an inspiration?
DAVIDSON: Yeah, and maybe more than an inspiration. It kind of is Scooby Doo, just with some different people.
TYSON: Instead of a dog, we have a pigeon that’s inebriated, most of the time. And Velma is Korean.
Mike, were you a fan of Scooby Doo, growing up?
Are we going to see how Mike Tyson came to be hanging out with the pigeon and the ghost?
DAVIDSON: We should, if we were responsible. That seems like the thing we ought to do. I’ll take that under advisement. I’m not sure that will happen in the first season. I think you get the feeling that Pigeon is from way back in Mike’s past.
TYSON: If you know the history of the Marquees of Queensberry, his son was the love of Oscar Wilde, the great poet and writer. His father put Oscar Wilde in jail in England, which is so bizarre. I believe that, in one of those episodes, we’re going to have to ask him to forgive Oscar for having this affair with his son. Now, it’s a different era and same-sex marriages are cool. Eventually, he’s going to have to look at himself, which is going to be so hard. Can you imagine someone from 1890s England having to forgive Oscar?
DAVIDSON: Mike goes to IBM.
TYSON: I compete with Big Blue for a chess match.
DAVIDSON: Mike goes to the moon.
TYSON: I’m a serial killer for astronauts.
DAVIDSON: He thinks he is. They want to build a proposed canal through Nicaragua, and Mike tries to stop it. He thinks it will cause the end of the world, and he’s right. There’s one where he has a rash and is itching all over, and he thinks he has bird mites. So, he thinks Pigeon is to blame, and he kicks Pigeon out of his house. It’s very emotional and upsetting.
TYSON: You’ll be happy that I kicked him out because he’s totally disrespectful.
DAVIDSON: There’s another one where a couple wants to buy a house, and they want them to help them pick out a house. We have a lot of good ones coming up.
Mike, how are you enjoying voice acting?
TYSON: Anything that helps pay the bills, I love it. Anything that makes people happy, I’m happy with that. I’m very excited to be doing it. I never thought I’d do this stuff. This is really awesome.
Are they going to be getting most or all of the mysteries via a pigeon?
DAVIDSON: Yeah. Mike wants to help people now, and the comedic part is that he thinks he can help people by solving mysteries. They’re all ill-qualified to solve mysteries, and I’ll be damned, if they get them solved. So, pigeons come and people who have problems write them down and attach them to a pigeon, and somehow the pigeon knows how to get to Mike’s house. Our main pigeon lives in the house, and then the other pigeons are just in the coop – the ones that aren’t a man inside.
What does Norm MacDonald bring to this show?
DAVIDSON: This is a great vehicle for him because what’s so funny about him are not that zinger lines that would maybe me in a multi-cam sitcom. Norm, in this show, has room to really be at his pace. His pace is slow and his cadence is specific. In the later episodes, he had a lot of room, and it’s insanely funny.
TYSON: It’s a possibility.
Mike, when you were boxing, could you ever have imagined you’d be doing Broadway, or all of these other things?
TYSON: I never wanted to do anything else but fight, when I was a kid. I never had any broader perspective of my own perspective. I didn’t know anything about anything else. I just wanted to fight until I could fight no more, and then I wanted to own a bar and drink and tell war stories. Now, I do movies and shows, and I don’t talk about fighting anymore. So, that plan didn’t work out well.
Do you have any specific aspirations when it comes to acting?
TYSON: I love acting. I love stage work, more than anything. It’s just live. It’s right there in front of you. If you make a mistake, they know it and you know it. I won’t do anything where I feel like I’m just making a fool out of myself. By doing that, I’m able to rise to my highest potential.
Mike, what’s the secret to successfully reinventing yourself?
TYSON: You spend the first part of your career just fucking it up. And then, you realize you messed it up so bad that you take the second part and clean it up. That’s basically how it happens. I was a young kid, just living that life. And then, I realized that I had to grow up. If you’re not humbled in this world, this world will thrust humbleness upon you. That was a good learning experience for me.
Mike Tyson Mysteries airs on Monday nights on Adult Swim.