When the invite came across the Press wire for Comic-con, my eyes popped out and so did those of my Comic-con buddy Rafael Gaitan. We immediately tweeted each other wondering ifMike Tyson Mysteries was a real thing or if someone was pranking us. As you’ll see below, it was a real thing, and Raf an I had the priviledge of enjoying a session in a press roundtable with Jim Rash, Rachel Ramras, Hugh Davidson – and, yes, Mike Tyson.

It’s hard to overstate how exciting it was when Tyson walked into the interview room. I’ve done several of these rooms before, with relatively big stars, but never with someone who commanded a room like Mike Tyson did. He had a raw power and energy, a charisma and excitement around him, like nobody I’d ever seen. But what was most striiking about the Champ wasn’t his presence but how humble he seemed. Its true – Tyson is soft spoken, with a high voice, and is also extremely sincere. It was remarkable meeting him – and one of the treasured memories of my Comic-con 2014 will always be asking him the question below about why he loves pigeons so much.

The interviews with Ramras, Davidson and Rash (which will be coming soon) were also real treats -but I’ll never forget the real pleasure of talking with the suprisingly complex Mike Tyson.

Special thanks to our pal Hunter Daniels of Collider for sharing transcript efforts and asking great questions.

Read on for the full transcripts and video clips.

Rachel Ramras

QUESTION: How does it feel to be playing an Asian-American?

RACHEL RAMAS:Its the same as any other character, really. I dont do an accent or anything. 

Have you had much interaction with Mike Tyson?

RAMAS:Today is probably the most.We were in the booth together one time and hes really sweet as pie, he truly is.Very fun and gung-ho.

Was it at all scary to be in a small space with a man who is world famous for—

RAMAS:Well, Im a boxer.No, Im not.Well, hes certainly a commanding presence.And you know, no one would want to make him angry or anything.But other than that.Hes very sweet.

What do you bring to your character, as someone raised by Mike Tyson that you wouldn’t bring to another character?

RAMAS:Well, if you see the show, he really projects an innocence.So, I think that being his daughter, the roles kind of get reversed.

Like Penny in Inspector Gadget?

RAMAS:I dont know that reference.I mean, Ive seen that show, but I dont remember.What if I said yes and that was the opposite of what I meant?But if you think thats the correct analogy, I will accept it.Yes, shes kind of like a friend to him and he is kind of like a gentle giant.

What does your character want?

RAMAS:I just want to take care of him, you know the pigeon is a bad influence.So I have a tenuous relationship with the pigeon.You know, [My character is] sort of the Velma-y character.If theres a lot of exposition, she usually does it.

Did you watch the documentary? Were you familiar with his life?

RAMAS:I mean, I was familiar with him.I have his book, but I havent read it.Ive seen bits of the documentary.But really, its not true to him, this character.But the way we write it, hes very sincere and genuine.

What are the mysteries?

RAMAS:Well, they vary.Some are, Come quick!Theres been a murder!- we dont know why they call the cops, they just send a pigeon – but some are more mundane.In one someone wants help buying a house.Mike is enthusiastic about all the mysteries and we kind of go along for the ride.Crazy things end up happening like Werewolves, Chupacabras.I think it really has the feel of those old Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

So, it’s a little bit like Mike Tyson’s Scooby Doo?

RAMAS:A little bit.But the humor really stems from the relationship between these characters. they really do become a family, so seeing them all interact, to me, thats the funniest part of the show and then the mystery is really secondary to that.But I think that people who really like that kind of show, like Scooby Doo or Mystery Team will really like it too.

Can you tell us about the pigeon character?

RAMAS:The pigeon, who is played by Norm MacDonald, is not a pigeon.I mean, he is a pigeon, but he was a man who was turned into a pigeon by a witch.So in the show, hes a man in the body of a pigeon.

The mysteries in the show, are they more like a Raymond Chandler novel, or are they more like a Scooby Doo episode where it’s more obviously structured?

RAMAS:No.There is no format to the mysteries.Its really, when were writing it, we come up with the jumping off point of what the mystery will be.But I think, in the vein of Adult Swim shows, you dont want it to feel cookie-cutter.Its not a parody of any of those shows.Its really its own thing.Weve started noticing that in every episode, things seem kind of normal, everyone is acting normally, and then something really weird happens in the end.But its not like there is a mask comes off in every episode.

Is there a Big Baddie for the show, like a Buffy-style villain?

RAMAS:No.He doesnt have a nemesis or anything like that.Yet.

When you first heard about the show, what was your reaction? What did you expect from the title?

RAMAS:I thought it was going to be sort of like the Mr. T show from when I was a kid and sort of like the Scooby Doo show, so I thought it would be fun.But at the time, all I knew was there was going to be a pigeon, because Mike likes pigeons.And it was going to be Mike and then his daughter and then the Marquis.But none of that truly made me think, A: I will be a good show, B: it will be funny, and C: it will make sense.But once we cast it and[Producer Hugh Davidson] and I had been working together for years and Jim [Rash] and I had known each other from The Groundlings.So, once we figured that casting out and once Norm McDonald came on, it was like, Well, this is too good to be true.So thats where the show kind of found its legs, just in the casting.

Wait, so the show was in development before Mike Tyson had approval or involvement?

RAMAS: Mike came to Warner Brothers with the idea that he wanted to do this cartoon. He loves Hanna-Barbera cartoons. So it started out that Mike Tyson Mysteries was the idea. But from there we kind of let loose. And we went to a brainstorming session one day and, I think— is there some ghost in another Hanna-Barbera cartoon?

The Funky Phantom.

RAMAS: Okay, so they were like, Oh we need a Funky Phantom thing.Then it was like – I always think shows always benefit from female energy – so I thought, We need a woman, you know, on the show.So it became that he would have a daughter. And then [Tyson] wanted a pigeon. It really came like that. But in terms of really finding what the show was, it wasnt until we had written a few episodes that we really figured out everyones voice. And now its The Marquis is the voice of reason; Yung is the protective daughter; Mike is the energetic go-getter and sometimes acts before thinking; Pigeon is a degenerate and its like theyre a great dysfunctional family.

Did Mike Tyson write up a pitch package and come to Warner Brothers, or…?

RAMAS:I dont know. Youll have to ask Mike that. But I know that he really wanted to do a cartoon and approached Warner Brothers.

 

 

Hugh Davidson

QUESTION: Are you looking to do self-contained episodes, or will there be a grander arc?

HUGH DAVIDSON:You know, I think I personally would hope that theyre contained to themselves and feel like theyre worth your time to watch the 11 minutes and theyre not just one of those fan shows for weirdos: the one show where you can only enjoy it by the tenth episode.But at the same time, I do like some shows that have that.You know, Seinfeld did it so well.They had little things where, if you didnt see those earlier episodes, you wouldnt need to to enjoy it.But we wouldnt have season long arcs.But I think there will be things that recur.After the first ten well see what seems rich enough to revisit.But were not going to plan anything.Otherwise its that sort of precious writing thing where its like, Oh, thats so funny, what we wrote.Well see if its funny.

So, Rachel Ramas told us that the show came about because Mike Tyson went to the studio and said, ‘I want to make a cartoon.’ Did he write a pitch package?

DAVIDSON:II doubt it.I bet Mike [Tyson] has a lot of meetings with various entities and says, I would like to have a Mike Tyson ____.Whether its a ship, or a planet, or a t-shirt factory.But at the same time, I do think that Mike had a genuine love of this stuff.And its like one of the things that— I find him very surprising.The things that he is knowledgeable about.Theyre kind of interesting or sometimes arcane.But hes a genuine fan of all of this stuff, probably more than I am.Of all the old cartoons.He knows it all.So I think he just wanted to be in one.

At one point did you get involved, if the project predated you?

DAVIDSON:They had made a bit of a teaser of animation.I think they were kind of getting their sea legs.And then, all I know is, I kept seeing the poster at Warner Brothers and I thought it was the worst idea I had ever seen in my life.Im so glad I have nothing to do with that.It looks so terrible.And then, like two years later, Im so involved in it.So I couldnt say no to that.

How did you get persuaded to be involved in this project then?

DAVIDSON:At a certain point I just did it as a sort of favor.But then once, I think once, I knew Jim Rash.I performed with Jim at Groundlings and had some say in who we were going to get in the show.It felt like something that could be legitimately good and fun.And I was a genuine – I know it sounds like bullshit – but I was a genuine fan of Mike.Like, I used to watch those— I mean, I guess the whole fucking world did, it doesnt make me special.But there was also something, even then, he would get interviewed and he was fascinating.He was weird and its likeSo he has got depth.So if there was some celebrity that was going to be in a cartoon, hes a good one for it.Hes lived this life with a lot of ups and downs.Like, hes a Shakespearian human being.Hes a fascinating person and hes very aware.And hes fun to write for.

Regarding the writing process, it seems like there is a lot of improv background going into it. Did that factor in a lot?

DAVIDSON:Our background as improvisers has largely— all thats done for me in terms of writing is, have an internal clock as a performer as to how long have I been on this stage feeling like, This isnt fun.Its uncomfortable.Or if Im in a scene and someone else is funny and Im the person just standing here, give this character something to do as a writer.

But theres not a lot of improvising other than encouraging the actors to make the characters their own.And theres not a lot of jokes.Its not a verbal, clever show.Its more about the behavior.I find that funnier, rather than the old, perfectly-crafted line.Also, these types of shows, they dont have the writing staff that those types of comedies tend to have.

They have fifteen people trying to come up with the perfect line – even on set – trying to pitch to actors.The elevator door opens and the character has to say something witty because theyre surprised by what they see.Theres 15 guys from Harvard going, [Snaps fingers].And theres part of me that doesnt really like that.And behavior to me is funnier.So Im probably more on the side of things like Larry Davids show, Curb Your Enthusiasm where it feels less witty.But you still want them to be funny.

But all these characters are like, Mike himself, I think hes very funny because hes very emotional.He has big, emotional reactions to things.And his acting is surprisingly joyful to be around.He keeps things simple, but hes very committed as an actor.He just tries.Hes supposed to be sad: Mike, you can tell, he tries to be sad.Hes supposed to be happy, hes going to try to be— he doesnt try to be funny and he doesnt try to be smarter than the material.

Like, a lot of, I think, retired sports figures or celebrities who would approach this material might try to play it cool.He never tries to play it cool.Hes very vulnerable as a performer and he makes the show funny.Because you dont feel like he thinks hes funny.So I think it allows you as the person watching it to feel like, you can laugh at this stuff and not feel like its a bunch of people who think theyre so goddamned clever.

So it doesn’t feel like Mike is not in on the joke, right?

DAVIDSON:Right.But there arent so many jokes.I mean, its like – yes, they are a mystery solving team that looks like those shlocky eighties mystery solving teams – but for the most part, they try to get the thing accomplished.Mike does it in a straight-forward way.And the comedy comes from them maybe not being expert in that area and then them having emotional reactions to whatever the situation is, whether its hard to do or not.

How complex are the mysteries?

DAVIDSON:I think people who write mystery novels make a lot of money because theyre fucking hard to write.I cant write a goddamn mystery, Id be a mystery writer!These things are just some bullshit happens and then Mike gets involved.Its usually just people asking for help and them Mike tries to help them.

They basically came up with the name Mike Tyson Mysteries I think, before I got involved.I dont know anything about mysteries and I dont know how to write one.You have to spend a couple of years being Dean Koontz to figure out what went on at the farm house that nightHow the fuck would I know?These things, you got to crank them out.We just wanted to feel relatable.

So if someone asks Mike for help, its inherently funny.Its more realistic.A couple asks Mike to help them buy a house.Like to me, it was so funny listening to Mike say the lines like, Im concerned that theyve gone out of their budget.Its twice as funny.Theres no joke.Theres not any joke at all.But hearing him say that.Hes like, dead serious, like hes concerned!Its extra funny.You know, and hes really good at that.Giving himself over to havingBecause there are jokes that are obvious within the material, so he just does whats there and he does it to the best of his ability and I think the result is that its very funny.

Are there any topics you don’t think he would touch on?

DAVIDSON:I think he wouldHes a guy, if you look at any part of his life, hes brutally honest.Way too honest for most of us.We wont probably touch on stuff that might make you think of something that really happened and was unpleasant

But we do want people to feel like there is pathos to it and you knowLike Mike has Yung-He – whos his daughter – and she wants to go to college, which is weird because shes still wearing a fucking tracksuit with a question mark on it.Its like, shed say that, and then to hear Mike say, I dont know how I feel about you going away to college.He does that so well.Its very funny.And I dont know where youd get to see things like that outside of this show, I think.

Can you explain the pigeons?

DAVIDSON:This is the part of the show that makes no fucking sense.In real life, Mike has all these pigeons, right?And pigeons used to carry pigeons, right?You know that?So then the Big Buy that you want people to believe is that, somehow, you write down your mystery, you attach it to the leg of a pigeon and it ends up at Mike Tysons house.And then Mike Tyson reads the mystery.So, for the most part, thats how they get the mysteries.And theres a pigeon coop at Mikes house.

Ive been to Mikes house and in the back yard theres a real pigeon coop.Its like a really nice house and then, the backyard is just a crazy, wooden pigeon coop.And he goes out there every day, just petting them.Its beyond crazy.Its very funny.So thats the basis of the idea.And then how they find out where theyre supposed to go — thats just not what we do.

What’s one piece of merchandizing you’d like to see from the show?

DAVIDSON:In one episode Mikes manager comes to him and tells him about an opportunity to make a line of Mike Tyson neck ties because the word tie reminds him of Tyson.And this guy, hes got a bunch of bad ideas about how Mike should be licensing his name.Theres several bad puns in that episode.But I would buy any of this bullshit.I like the sweat jacket, the one in the show.The Yung-Le one.I hope there is a lot of Yung-He kinda stuff.So hopefully well sell a lot of shit.

What do you go for with the world around Mike?

DAVIDSON:Its very real.Like super real.What I would want to write is, things around me that I observe and think are funny.And Im a human being.I dont know anything about mysteries.I could give a shit about superheroes.You know, real stuff is funny to me.And Mike being in that world, just dealing with real stuff.We put him in a house in the suburbs of Las Vegas.And one of them, they get a message thats like, Will you give me a ride home from the airport?They just go to the airport and it ends up being Buzz Aldrin that they pick up.Because one of the writers had at one time interns on some shitty celebrity prank show or some goddamn thing.And he ended up as a PA having to pick up Buzz Aldrin from the airport.So we basically just stole that life experience from him and shoved it into this and made a mystery out of it.

 

MIKE TYSON

QUESTION: How did you get into doing cartoons?

MIKE TYSON:This is what really happened — every now and then, remember when they had Bart Simpson?They had me on [The Simpsons] and Bart Simpson would bust my chops and stuff and I would get mad and threaten the guy?And I would get mad and, I took myself totally too serious back then.You know?And thats what it is.

Did you have any influence on the appearance of your character as it was drawn?

MIKE TYSON:No, no.No.I just know that, when it was time to perform the character, I did the best I could.I wasnt concerned with wanting to have some creative control or coming up with my own scenario.I just want to be involved.Get me in a scenario and let me do my best.Im a performer.You put me in a scenario and Im like, Boom!

Do you have a catch phrase for every time a mystery comes through?

MIKE TYSON:No.I think I have to work on that.

Some of your cast members mentioned that you brought the idea to Warner Brothers, how did that work? What made you want to do cartoons?

MIKE TYSON: I just want to try everything. I want to see how good I can be, the best I can be at what Im doing. I want to do everything. You know? I want to be in a musical. I want to do everything. I want to try and sing.

Are you going to sing the theme song?

MIKE TYSON: No. Its going to be on stage. Its going to be a Broadway show. On stage.

Can you sing us the theme song now? Are there words to it?

MIKE TYSON: As a matter of fact there is words.

What are they?

[Long Pause]

MIKE TYSON: I just dont remember them right now.

How does it feel to perform dialogue that is written in ‘your voice’ by other people?

MIKE TYSON: If youre a professional, youll make it work. you can be like, Im not going to do that, Im going to do it where Im satisfied.But Im very comfortable being uncomfortable so I just go for it.

Do you improvise at all?

MIKE TYSON: I like to spend some time with the script so I can do the best I can do with what I have. I can always change it, but I like to see what I can do before I change it. I want to be a serious actor one day.

How do you get into character?

MIKE TYSON: Im very emotional, Im very excited to have the chance to work and perform and go for it. Im not afraid to be a jerk or anything and laugh at myself anymore.

You’ve reinvented yourself probably more than anyone—

MIKE TYSON: I dont know that Ive reinvented. I just think Im more, in this stage of my life, I just work and I grow up to be more responsible. This is a stage of my life where Ive got more going on and stuff. Its just a matter of time. Im still working on it.

What’s your mystery-solving style? Do you get all your facts first?

MIKE TYSON: No, no. No. I get my pigeon. When its time to get a mystery solved, I go to my pigeon coop, get the message and get my team. My – I thought she was Chinese, but shes Korean – my stepdaughter, I get my ghost of the Maquis of Queensberry and then I get my pigeon and we go on little brain searches and figure stuff out.

Where does your love of pigeons come from?

MIKE TYSON: Im going to explain it like this: where I come from there is like a culture, like a person that has horses or something. Everybody Im associated with in my neighborhood; everybody I know, we all have it. We all understand it; we all have the same lingo, we all know. Most of my of life is when outside, Im looking up. Im looking up for hawks, Im looking up at what kind of stray bird that is. Thats the type of mentality that a pigeon sire has.

Im sure you know some guy who flies birds. Im sure you have— everybody knows somebody who has pigeons. And thats just who we are. Thats just our life. We live our life, but we love our birds. We constantly look up because were always thinking of a stray bird or a bird coming back. And its just what it is.

Do you have a certain bird from your past that you miss?

MIKE TYSON: I like Rollers. Home ones make the money, but I like the Rollies.I like the Rollies.Theyre a lot like me. There are different kinds of Rollies.You may have watched Sir Anthony Hopkins… What was that movie? The one where he is in the cell?

Silence of the Lambs.

MIKE TYSON: In that movie he says, You dont mix two Deep Rollers together.They have to be a shallow one [And a Deep Roller]— My mother and my father, in metaphor, theyre both Deep Rollers, you know? And when you mix Deep Rollers Im the offspring of two Deep Rollers. They crash. They kill themselves. They cant stop. They get into the roll and they go so deep that they get into a suction and they cant open up their wings. Theyre going too fast and they smash into the ground, you know?

And Im like, descended from two Deep Rollers, but Im learning not to crash. And thats my metaphor because they die. They die. Theyre going to die, I dont care what you do when you let them out, they may survive the fall, but when you let them out, theyre going to hit the floor. Theyre going to die. Thats just what theyre going to do. Nothing is going to stop them, thats just what they do. So I learned not to be too reckless and not to hit the ground.

Do you have a favorite mystery that you’ve done so far?

[Long pause.]

What might that be?

MIKE TYSON: I wont be able to tell you. But I promise, once I tell you, Ill come back at the end of the show and tell you, This my favorite.

Have you ever done Genesis at Karaoke?

MIKE TYSON: No. But Ill tell you, people always ask me to do that stuff.

And you’ve never said yes?

MIKE TYSON:Well listen, this is where I stand: I met [Phil Collins'] daughter, he had a young daughter, and she said I represented her well in the movie.So her father is happy.