Mike Tyson was in San Diego tonight for his one-man show “Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth” at the Balboa Theatre. Part conversation, part confession and part comedy this show has shining moments of triumph, pathos, angst, and explores what happens when someone hits the self-destruct button on their life.
Tyson still strikes an imposing figure, especially as the show opens with him in the spotlight and he still looks like if he got mad enough a swing from him could separate your head from your shoulders. He is comfortable on stage, appreciates his audience, and tells a (mostly) coherent story. But for as much as he has lived these events, the story doesn’t always feel or sound like it is his own story. If distracted, or given too much feedback from the audience, he fumbles lines or loses his place. Even worse he has to follow the script which makes him spout flowery lines that sound disingenuous at best and like outright lies at worst.
Yet, even with the fumbling, he seems like a charming fellow and is incapable of not being entertaining. He is at his best when he is talking about something that happened to him that can only be described by someone who has lived it. When he is talking about his relationship with trainer Cus D’Amato, his desire to be happy no matter if it cost him broken noses and cracked ribs, and the joy of a nice jacket that he stole when he was a kid, it seemed to bring out the best in him. These small moments made me feel like I was actually watching the man and not the caricature of a man the public expects.
Tyson is not a dumb guy, and he once told reporters before a fight ,“I know at times I come across like a Neanderthal or a babbling idiot, but I like that person. I like to show you that person because that’s who you all come to see. I’m Tyson. I’m a tyrannical titan. And sometimes I say, ‘God, it would be good to be a fake somebody rather than a real nobody.’ ” So at times the shows narrative seems to ignore the fact that he is someone who knows what the audience wants and gives it to them. Instead they give him moments of dull filler to expand upon and a dead relative to exploit. The problem is this “fake somebody” whose on stage redemption is happening in front of our eyes is nowhere near as interesting as the real person who achieved and lost so much.
Much like other one-man shows (the one that comes to mind first is any of them by John Leguizamo) this show is an homage to how the person wants to be remembered, and is a self indulgent attempt to compartmentalize the important events of their life as they choose to remember them and hope that’s how the audience will remember them as well.
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