Chicago Culture Vulture

devouring theatre, film, and food

Punches to Punchlines: “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth”


The phrase “Mike Tyson’s one-man show” sounds like the setup for a joke. But Mike Tyson has indeed traded punches for punchlines in his autobiographical “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth” which made a pitstop in Chicago over the weekend. Directed by Spike Lee, the two-hour autobiographical show isn’t so much a memoir as a riff. A street thug from Brooklyn, gifted boxer, multi-millionaire, convicted rapist, cocaine addict, ear-eater, and now vegan father-of-three who has a thing for pigeons, Tyson pokes fun at himself and rather serious events in his life. The show loses steam during the saccharine tributes to the women he has lost — his mother, his sister, and his daughter — but plows ahead when Tyson shows a glimpse of the powerful, edgy, foul-mouthed, uncontrollable drive that made him the youngest heavyweight champion in the world (a title he is not shy about repeating).

Throughout reliving and retelling it all, aided by footage shot by Spike Lee and projected on a movie theatre size screen, Tyson is never apologetic. The result isn’t redemptive or particularly inspirational, but it is a fascinating character study of a man who was thrust into the international spotlight at a young age and rewarded for violence and talent for which he was once arrested. His talent in the ring, however, does not perfectly translate into a talent for the stage.

Tyson is an entertainer, but he is not an actor. His stutter, lipse, and difficulty remembering his lines – crimes that would end the career of a traditional actor – were generally forgiven by the enamoured crowd on Friday night. Perhaps the audience recognized that these ailments might be the result of his boxing career – years of fighting, beating, and knocking out as they cheered him on to victory and through defeat. It’s these fans, and those intrigued by a man whose celebrity is only dwarfed by his ego, that will listen during his three-month national tour with eager, uneaten ears.

For more undisputed and sometimes unintelligible truth, visit


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This entry was posted on February 16, 2013 by in Theatre Review.
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