In our fast-paced culture it's amazing how quickly we'll slow down to take pleasure in someone else's misery when they are pulled over at the side of the road. Celebrating that impulse must have prompted Spike Lee to team up with heavyweight champion and ear-biter Mike Tyson to present Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth.
Written by Kiki Tyson (Mike's wife since 2009), The Undisputed Truth is like a "book on stage." The champ offers a cursory view of his life from birth through to the tragic death of his four-year-old daughter Exodus. The show plays more like his greatest hits (no pun intended) and does little to offer any insight or explanation about why certain events happened. Along the way his bad breaks – being the son of an addict, growing up in a dangerous neighborhood, becoming too wealthy too soon, smoking too much pot, bad officiating – are offered up as explanations for his misdeeds: fights outside the ring, waking up with prostitutes, going broke and biting Evander Holyfield's ear (though he does plug his onetime adversary's BBQ sauce.) Rare are the moments where Tyson takes responsibility for and displays an understanding of his own actions.
There are several moments when Tyson is both funny and charming, but I guess if you take enough punches to the head anyone can be charming. The charm doesn’t make up for one of the sloppiest presentations I've ever seen on stage. One can argue that the almost improvisational feel of the show, which relies on a "wait ‘til you hear this one" approach, is part of that charm. For a show whose top price is $500 (which does include a meet-and-greet and a signed boxing glove), that doesn't cut it.
On opening night there were apparently some kids in the first two rows (the section of the theatre that Tyson played to the most that evening). He had no problem dropping F-bombs and the N-word repeatedly in front of them, but feigned embarrassment when talking about boogers. Seriously? No concerns talking about getting laid in more graphic terms that I can recount here, but he has problems with snot.
When The Hangover opened with its now classic cameo by Mike Tyson, it appeared to be the launch of Iron Mike's career resuscitation. The Undisputed Truth, which isn’t much more than a Wikipedia version of his life, should have built to a sense of redemption or the same level of self-awareness that Jake La Motta has at the end of Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull. Instead, we spend 100 minutes gawking at a wreck involving the one-time undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. That’s the only truth you’ll get.