As you may have heard, Mike Tyson is coming to Portland for a March 13 performance of his newish one-man show, titled "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth," at the Schnitz. Part of me is deeply excited about this, because Tyson is one of the weirdest cultural figures in America. A terrifying heavyweight fighter, he will long be remembered for that one time he bit a chunk out of Evander Holyfield's ear, and long mocked for his lisping voice. His tenure as sports celebrity has been impressively fraught with drama, and not the good kind. America can find forgiveness for those who struggle with substance abuse, as Tyson has, but it's a different ballgame altogether when there are accusations of domestic abuse on the wind, not to mention the fact that he was convicted and served prison time for rape (a charge he still fervently denies). Not content to merely appear back in the public eye on periodic occasions of cocaine fueled car crashes, Tyson's story has gotten even weirder with an unlikely transition (via The Hangover) into comedy. Stuff like this happens:
He remains a particularly divisive personality, with some sympathizing with his willingness to be candid about his past mistakes, and when I say "candid," I mean willing to sob like a child while being filmed in close-up, as he did in the amazing 2009 documentary Tyson, directed by Tyson's longtime friend James Toback. I reviewed it when it first came out, and it kind of knocked me on my ass. I you haven't seen it, I suggest you rectify that post haste.
On the other hand, there are those who refuse to forgive Tyson's transgressions, and argue that while he may have served out his punishments, the nature of his crimes should disqualify him from the privilege of further fame and fortune. And on a practical level, reviews of the live version, which has already enjoyed lucrative stints in Las Vegas and New York, report that Tyson's skills as theatrical orator leave much to be desired, that the writing (by wife Kiki) is weak and eschews opportunities to convey profundity, and that despite stage direction from Spike Lee, Tyson simply translates more effectively to an audience after the interventions of film editing. My suspicion is that a re-watch of Tyson would be a more powerful and much less expensive experience, but the pull of curiosity toward a Tyson experience that's part monologue, part motivational speech, and part theater is hard to deny. Tickets go on sale this Friday, so you've got till then to mull the options. (But seriously, while you do, watch Tyson.)