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Mike Tyson is singing to me—poorly—his version of "Cocaine," the J.J. Cale song popularized by Eric Clapton in 1980.
"It's alright, it's alright, it's alright … cocaine!" Tyson sings, unprompted, in a recent interview from his home in Las Vegas, where he's rehearsing for his new one-man show, "The Undisputed Truth: Live on Stage." It begins April 13 at the MGM Grand. Tales of Tyson's drug use—as well as his numerous sexcapades—are a big part of the performance, which, at 90 minutes, is roughly 88 and a half minutes longer than his first-round knockout of Michael Spinks in 1988.
At 45, Tyson needs money. But the former heavyweight champion, who admitted in 2010 he was "totally destitute and broke," claims that's not the reason he's doing it.
"I don't think I'm ever not [going to be broke]," Tyson told Yahoo News. "I owe too much money to the IRS. I'm never going to be able to attain a great fortune of wealth. That doesn't float my boat anymore. I just want to enjoy life. To entertain people, move them and be moved by them."
And for a convicted rapist-turned-pigeon handler who once threatened to eat his opponent's children, Mike Tyson still moves—or at least fascinates--a lot of people, as evidenced by the critically-acclaimed 2008 "Tyson" documentary, his scene stealing roles in "The Hangover" movies and, more recently, his comedic turns on FunnyOrDie.com.
Iron Mike isn't worried that doing a show in Las Vegas, where cultural relics like Celine Dion roam, could turn him into a caricature of his former self. "I don't look at it from an egotistical perspective," he said. "I look at it like I want to transcend my entertainment career just like I transcended my boxing career."
Yahoo's in-depth conversation with Tyson--including his incendiary thoughts on the Trayvon Martin case--below:
Have you ever been on stage before, aside from a boxing ring?
I've been going to Europe for 10 years, doing these meet-and-greets [with fans], and I'm on a platform and they call me out and I'm interacting with the crowd. We were watching "A Bronx Tale" with Chazz Palminteri, I said, baby, I can do this. I just won't interact with the crowd and I'll be more refined. I won't curse. In Ireland and England and all these Celtic countries, they're like, "We [expletive] love that bloke Mike!" And they have fights in these auditoriums, in front of, you know, 5,000 people, 10,000 people--it's like gladiators.
"The Undisputed Truth" is described as a live autobiography, and will "peel back layers of your life." But I watched the 2008 "Tyson" documentary recently, and it's pretty raw. How is this different?
This is going to be more vicious. Even though that was an awesome [film] and we won awards and everything, that was some real dark [expletive]. This is going to be pretty light. We're going to have fun. We're going to laugh. We're going to cry. It's going to be a roller coaster of emotion. It's going to be a dynamic collection of stories.
Why not do a book?
The book will come soon, but I want to entertain an audience. That's all I want to do. It's practically like working out. Preparing for the big picture. Maybe I'll do some Broadway. It's not necessarily from a financial perspective. I don't know if I'll ever be as wealthy as I was before, but I was never happy with all that wealth and fame. At this stage in my life, with my wife and my family, we're extremely content with who we are. All we want to do is entertain, and be in the entertainment world.
In 2011, you said in an interview you were destitute and broke, living paycheck to paycheck. Are you doing this for the money?
I don't think I'm ever not [going to be broke]. I owe too much money to the IRS. I'm never going to be able to attain a great fortune of wealth. But I'm focused on making things and making people happy. It's more important to me to make the audience laugh, and people like Conan [O'Brien] laugh, than receiving money.
What about the people who say you're doing this for the money?
They might be right, but it's not much money. It's not enough to make a big dent in my debt. I'll be able to go out and eat in a nice restaurant maybe. Money's not my antidote. I just want to entertain people, and move them and be moved by them.
You've made this public comeback from convict to comedian. And there are a lot of people rooting for you now. Do you feel that? Do you feel like you've been given a second chance?
I've been given many chances. If I look at it from that perspective, I may have been given 10 or 20 chances. And I've never been able to take the chances I've been given. But at this moment, I'm fully committed to this opportunity that I have. That's why I want to be as successful or even more successful now than I was as a boxer. I'm going to apply the same energy, the same determination, the same experience, the same courage and willpower to win. And I don't get discouraged.
Is it weird to you that kids growing up now don't know you as a boxer--they know you as the crazy guy with the tiger in "The Hangover"? Are you concerned you're becoming a caricature?
I'm immune to the feeling. I don't look at it from an egotistical perspective. I look at it like I want to transcend my entertainment career just like I transcended my boxing career. Where I transcend to oblivion to where only God can know my name.
Are you still a vegan?
Yes, I've been a vegan for four years.
And you've never cheated?
No, no, no, no, no. That's not the way I want to live my life. I don't want to cheat.
No, no I never did crack. Not that I look down on it either, I just never had the opportunity.
Is your drug use going to be a part of the one-man show?
Absolutely. [Sings] "It's alright, it's alright, it's alright … cocaine!"
Did you ever do drugs before a fight?
Um. [Pause] Well … yeah.
Before a boxing match, before you went in the ring, right before you went out there?
Yes, yes, yes.
Remember they fined me $250,000 or something like that? For doing weed before the fight.
Didn't marijuana make you too relaxed? I don't know, that seems like it would be—
A depressant. They should've given me $250,000 for fighting in that condition. [Laughs]
Did you ever do performance-enhancing drugs?
Not for fighting. But listen, if you're fighting and doing [performance enhancing drugs], you can't even compete now. I don't care how people say they can control it. If you're using it, no one will even know your name.
Since your public comeback, what's the craziest offer you've ever turned down?
People still want me to fight. But I want to be an entertainer now. I don't want to fight anymore.
No, not to fight--as an entertainer. Like, have you been asked to host "Saturday Night Live"? Something like that.
No, Funny or Die is my "Saturday Night Live." I don't know if I'm a "Saturday Night Live" kind of guy. I was on it once, but I never hosted. I don't think I'm a "Saturday Night Life" kind of guy. [Laughs]
I want to ask you a little bit about the tattoo, because it's become an iconic symbol for you—a logo almost.
Yes. I just thought it was so awesome that it was on "The Hangover" poster. I'm just so proud of that.
Yeah--it even became part of the movie plot. But what would you say if one of your children came home with a tattoo on his or her face?
I don't know. I'd probably say, "It's stupid." But it's not stupid if that's what they want to do. Like me.
How are you as a father?
I don't know. As a father I think I suck, but I'm trying.
In the show, there's a story you tell about going over to your ex-wife Robin Givens' house after you've broken up to, essentially, have sex with her, only to see her come home with Brad Pitt, leaving you distraught—as any man would be.
Now your wife, Kiki, is the executive producer of the show, and obviously she knows this stuff is going to come up. How does that work at home?
My wife suggested it. Kiki wrote it. I told her the story and she put it in the show.
You've been hanging out with celebrities like 50 Cent. Who would you say is your best friend?
My wife. That's the only thing that matters at the end of the day. Our family. That's the only thing that's going to be there at the end of time. There will come a time for our friends to be there for us, and they won't pass the test. We don't really know who our friends are.
As a black kid who grew up in Brooklyn, who was beat up, and then moved to the Catskills, and has had to deal with racial issues, what are your thoughts about the Trayvon Martin case?
My personal feeling is that, as a young kid that was beat on by a bully, the guy [Zimmerman] stalked him and didn't follow instructions from a superior officer. But my all-around perspective, I wasn't there. I don't know what happened. Even though this is the best country in the world, certain laws in this country are a disgrace to a nation of savages. It's a majority versus a minority. That's the way God planned it. He didn't want to do something about it, He wanted us to do something about it. We have to continue tweeting, we have to continue marching, we have to continue fighting for Trayvon Martin. If that's not the case, he was killed in vain, and we're just waiting for it to happen to our children. It's a disgrace that man hasn't been dragged out of his house and tied to a car and taken away. Forget about him being arrested—the fact that he hasn't been shot yet is a disgrace. That's how I feel personally about it. [Laughs]
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