Mike Tyson, Spike Lee on Broadway: Debuts Spark Amusement, Outrage

Mike Tyson and Spike Lee clowning around in announcing their Broadway debuts
Mike Tyson and Spike Lee announce their mutual Broadway debuts in the one-man show: ““Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, Live on Broadway,” directed by Lee

The news sparked reactions ranging from stunned to amused to outraged: Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson will make his Broadway theater debut – as will Spike Lee – in the one-man show “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, Live on Broadway,” directed by Lee, on Broadway’s Longacre Theater for six shows only, July 31-August 5.

“The last time Mike Tyson was on stage at a Broadway theater, it was four years ago and he nearly wrecked what was left of his boxing career by biting Lennox Lewis on the leg during a press conference at the Hudson Theater, Daily News sports columnist Tim Smith wrote.  (Hudson Theater is a rentable hall in a theater district hotel not used for theater)

The Wooster Group: (@TheWoosterGroup): You know tickets are going to cost an arm and a leg and an ear.

Neil Patrick Harris (@ActuallyNPH: Mike Tyson is heading to Broadway in a one man show directed by Spike Lee?!? Sweet gods of comedy, now I have to host the Tonys again!

Norwegian critic Lillian Bikset predicted that it would be impossible to find reviews without the phrases “heavyweight” and either “knockout” or “knocked out.”

Numerous jokes suggested that, given Mike Tyson’s turn as Broadway thespian, the next show on Broadway logically would be the Royal Caribbean Cruise production of Hairspray.

Some were not amused: With Mike Tyson’s Bway debut, said Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks, “Broadway is achieving its long held dream of 100% artistic irrelevance.”

But New York Times theater editor Scott Heller unearthed a blog post from a boxing and theater aficionado, Trav S.D. in his blog Travalanche, that showed that the two forms of entertainment have a long intertwined history:

“When boxers achieved fame in the ring, they could pursue lucrative second careers as monologists, talking about their experiences and even becoming half-assed stand-up comedians. In the vaudeville era, almost all the top boxers did this: not only Sullivan and Corbett but Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, and  Max Baer. Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom was too late for vaud so he went straight into films and started his own night club.”

It is true that Mike Tyson is not an ordinary champion, and not in a good way.

Nicholas Oakley(@nicholasoakley): Can someone please remind me why I was supposed to forget Mike Tyson is that ear-biting rapist and think of him as a lovable American icon?

His previous endeavors have not necessarily prepared him as a thespian, although he did have a cameo in The Hangover, and he was the model-spokesman for this bizarrely-named beverage in Poland, Black Energy:


How did Mike Tyson go from boxer to Broadway. According to the Daily News

“KiKi Tyson, Tyson’s wife, came up with the idea after seeing actor Chazz Palminteri doing a one-man show called “The Bronx Tales” in Las Vegas. She scripted the Las Vegas show and, with the help of Adam Steck, produced it.”

A review of Tyson’s Vegas show in April (50 percent longer than the New York version) was kind, but noted that his oddly high-pitched voice “sometimes gets in the way of a strong moment here, when the champ bites into poetic phrases such as ‘my dark dreams and shadows,’ or calling his beloved trainer Cus D’Amato ‘a master of psychological warfare, a grand manipulator.’ He’s more comfortable saying ‘I wouldn’t wash my ass for days” when talking about his amateur years: “I would hunger for glory like a mad dog.'”

“I’ll just be telling my story,” Tyson said at a press conference this week. “It’s not all good stuff! It’s going to be a rollercoaster of emotions.”

As for Spike Lee, he is not known as a stage director, but he did make a much-praised documentary of the stage musical “Passing Strange,” the bulk of which was the filming of the last performance of the show on the stage of the Belasco Theater, and he also made a film of John Leguizamo’s “Freaks.”

“With Mike Tyson on the stage, you are going to hear a great American story,” Spike Lee told reporters. ” Mike’s a great storyteller.”

The show, set for 90 minutes without an intermission, is priced closer to a boxing match than your usual solo performance: Regular front-of-the-house orchestra seats are selling for $198.50.  “Premium / VIP Tyson Meet & Greet Package”:
Tickets to Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth: Live on Broadway

Spike Lee and Mike Tyson on the Today Show

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

3 thoughts on “Mike Tyson, Spike Lee on Broadway: Debuts Spark Amusement, Outrage

  1. Hi, please don’t quote me (especially at length) without a proper attribution. I’m Trav S.D. and the blog is Travalanche (travsd.wordpress.com)

Leave a Reply