Former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world Mike Tyson isn’t the first person that comes to mind when one thinks about animated cartoons. Which is exactly why he’s the perfect person to star in the Cartoon Network’s latest show, Mike Tyson Mysteries. Co-starring comedian Norm Macdonald (Saturday Night Live) as an alcoholic pigeon (named Pigeon) who was once a man, MAD‘s Rachel Ramras as Mike’s adopted Korean daughter Yung Hee, and Community‘s Jim Rash as the ghost of Marquess of Queensberry, the show premieres tonight at 10:30 pm ET on Adult Swim. We recently spoke with Mike and producer Hugh Davidson about the champ’s transition from uppercuts to undercover work. Check out our chat below!
On how the producers pitched the show to Mike…
Mike Tyson: They asked me to do a cartoon, and then we did a cartoon… At the height of my career, when I’m out there, Iron Mike or whatever the hell they called me, the cartoon people wouldn’t touch me with a thousand foot pole. Then I’m down on my deepest luck, and it’s “Hey Mike, you want to do this?” I’m getting all these deals, and I don’t if it was out of sympathy, but I said, “Why not try a cartoon?” I wanted to do a cartoon before, and I didn’t have a cartoon. But now we’ve got Hanna-Barbara and all those guys, and I’m involved with that family. Hey, that’s really big stuff for me. It gets no bigger when you consider the conglomerate that I’m working with at this particular moment.
On whether Scooby-Doo was an inspiration…
MT: Yeah, it was. It’s like Scooby-Doo meets The A-Team! We have a pigeon [instead of a] dog, a pigeon that’s inebriated most of the time. Velma’s Korean. At first I thought she was Chinese, then I was informed my adopted daughter was Korean.
On using Mike’s voice…
MT: The head execs that heard my voice can’t believe it’s my voice.
Hugh Davidson: Yeah, it’s true. A lot of people who’ve heard it can’t believe Mike is actually doing the voice.
MT: And I’m wondering if it’s because they can’t understand it or else it sounds very distinguished. One or the other.
HD: The second one!
MT: I’d like to believe that. I’d really, really like to believe that.
HD: The joke in the first episode… We had written it so he was gonna say “Cormac McCarthy” in a crazy way each time [he says it]. Then he said “Cormac McCarthy” perfectly, but “chupacabra” he kept saying in new and different ways every time. That became much funnier.
On whether we’ll learn how Mike started hanging out with a pigeon and a ghost…
HD: We should, if we were responsible. That seems like the thing we ought to do, and we should take that under advisement. I’m not sure that does happen in the first season, but it’s sort of like, I think you get the feeling that maybe Pigeon is from way back in Mike’s past. And then Jim [Rash], the Marquess of Queensberry… British people can pronounce that title, they say the “ess,” and then we thought it was funny that Mike thought they were saying “Marcus” as his name. But then internally, when we’d be talking about his character, it got so annoying trying to say his goddamn name, that we started staying “Marcus” all the time. So now we all just call him Marcus.
MT: He’s an interesting character. If you know the history of the Marquess of Queensberry, his son was the love of Oscar Wilde, and his father was [an instrument] in putting Oscar Wilde in jail, in the Reading jail, in England. It’s so bizarre that that happened. I think at some point in one of these episodes he has to ask forgiveness, and to forgive Oscar for having this affair with his son. Now it’s a different era. With same-sex marriages, it’s cool now. So we can do that. It’ll be interesting to have him forgive Oscar.
On what’s coming up this season…
HD: Well, among other things, we go to IBM, the computer company…
MT: And I compete with [Deep] Blue in a chess match.
HD: You didn’t think you’d see that! Mike goes to the moon in one. That doesn’t sound exciting…
MT: It is exciting. I’m a serial killer for astronauts.
HD: He thinks he is. Because he gets in a lot of car wrecks and he kills a lot of astronauts. So then he’s worried.
MT: Because these guys did some snooping around and they started asking some family members, my wife, and they told them it’s pervasive that I can’t drive well. I never would have gotten arrested if I hadn’t crashed into the cop car. I would have gotten away.
HD: [Laughs] Oh my God… In Nicaragua, they’re gonna try and dig a canal through the [country], one of the greatest projects in the history of mankind. And Mike tries to stop it. Because he thinks it will cause the end of the world. And he’s right. That’s one. In one, he has a rash, and he think it’s bird mites, that’s a real thing. Because rats have mites on them. I don’t know if you’ve ever had rats in your homes, but it causes a lot of itching. Then he thinks the pigeon is to blame, so he kicks Pigeon out of his house. It’s very emotional, very upsetting. And Norm Macdonald does not take it well.
MT: When you get to know the characteristics of Pigeon, you’ll be glad that I kicked him out of the house. He’s totally disrespectful.
HD: He’s a disrespectful person… In one of them the mystery is that a couple wants to buy a house and they want [Mike and his friends] to help them pick out the house.
MT: In this particular episode, I’d tell the [seller], if he said the house was worth five million, “No, I’m gonna give you seven fifty. You deserve seven million five hundred thousand for this one.” I force them to take more. I’m like, “Take more, you schmuck.”
On how much Mike likes doing voice-over work…
MT: Hey man, anything that pays the bills, I love it. Anything that helps pay the bills and makes people happy, I’m happy with that.
Mike Tyson Mysteries premieres tonight at 10:30 pm ET on Adult Swim.