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January 22, 2017

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Iron Mike’s latest adventure is … a cartoon

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John Katsilometes

Mike Tyson is shown with writer Hugh Davidson, left, during the news conference and screening of the upcoming Adult Swim series “Mike Tyson Mysteries” at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014.

Mike Tyson, as he talks, is forever animate, still moving like a champion boxer. His hands fly fast, and he bobs his head as if preparing to fire another three-punch combination.

Tyson is seated on a director’s chair in a theater at Warner Bros. Studios. He is the central character in an upcoming Adult Swim cartoon series, “Mike Tyson Mysteries.” Yep, Tyson will be animated.

“They actually approached my wife, Kiki, and she told me about it,” Tyson said. “It was crazy from the beginning, the (epitome) of craziness, and she said, ‘It’s on Adult Swim,’ and I thought it was about old, rich, white guys learning how to swim, hanging out at a lake or something.

“But then she told me, ‘It’s a cartoon, for grown-ups. You can curse. You can be yourself.’”

In a storyline that borrows from Scooby-Doo, peppered with profanity and adult content (stopping just short of F-bombs and full nudity), the series, which debuts Oct. 27, follows Tyson as a mystery-solving sleuth. Each episode is 15 minutes. He is joined by a pigeon that once was a man, voiced by Norm Macdonald; the Ghost of Marquess, voiced by Jim Rash of “Community” and “Reno 911; and Yung Hee, an adopted Korean daughter who was left on his doorstep as a child, voiced by Rachel Ramras, of “Mad.” Hugh Davidson, once a member of the Groundlings comedy troupe, is producer and writer.

In the premiere, the group tracks down the “missing” author Cormac McCarthy. Macdonald plays the pigeon as if in a constant inebriated state.

“Norm Macdonald has a lot of fans,” said Tyson, adding that “this show will do well among high white guys.”

Tyson voices many of the characters. He sees himself more as a performer these days than a champion boxer.

“Mentally, I never, ever go back there, my fighting days,” he said. “I want to say this properly … I was a serious fighter, but I’m an entertainer now, and there are different kinds of entertainers. I am the kind of guy who would die for applause. Some people don’t go that far. Maybe that’s a form of low self-esteem, that hunger.”

Tyson’s cartoon show is just one segment of his empire. He owns a boxing promotion company, Iron Mike Productions. He continues to star in his long-running, one-man show, “Undisputed Truth,” and one day hopes to sit down for an extended run in Las Vegas.

“I want to sign for a three-year deal, something like that, at a hotel so I can stay home and be closer to my kids,” he said.

As it is, Tyson travels to such dissimilar locales as Stockton, Calif., and Monte Carlo to perform before sold-out audiences who still crane for a glimpse of Iron Mike.

“The momentum of this show won’t stop,” he said. “I am performing in places where people don’t even speak English. I’m thinking of heading to the Middle East, but they need to behave. It’s scary over there. If you want me to visit, you’ve got to behave.”

Tyson says he is willing to explore any new avenue in his career, and in his life. He laughs at himself, noting that he often trips over words when voicing his characters — Cormac McCarthy, for instance. But it’s “all part of me growing up,” he said.

By being portrayed in cartoon form?

“What I mean is, it’s a way for me to be an adult in my perception of everything,” he said. “If you used to disagree with me, you were my enemy. But not now. By growing up, I mean, I don’t take myself too seriously. Today, I am able to laugh at myself.”

Hearing himself make that comment, Tyson leans back and does just that.

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