We gave it a B-
Five minutes. That’s more or less how long you’ll have to wait for Mike Tyson to deliver the ear joke. Because even if you don’t know what to expect from the former heavyweight champ’s unlikely one-man confessional, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth — at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre through Aug. 12 — you know darn well he’s going to make a crack about the Evander Holyfield ear-biting incident. After all, everyone else has. (For the uninitiated: It was 1997, at the MGMGrand in Las Vegas, a rematch between the boxers dubbed ”the Sound and the Fury,” and Iron Mike bit off a piece of his opponent’s ear.)
With that out of the way, Tyson then relaxes — well, about as much as the often-stilted script, written by his wife, Kiki, will allow — and takes us back to where it all began: the Brooklyn projects, his addict mother, his 30+ arrests by the age of 12. He reveals what prompted his first streetfight (a bully beheaded one of Tyson’s beloved pet pigeons) and recalls his tender relationship with trainer/manager/father figure Cus D’Amato. And along the way, he drops more F-bombs than about three David Mamet plays put together. Pretty much every anecdote, thankfully, is supplemented by pictures and video footage; director Spike Lee has assembled a photo album of sorts on the massive screen that fills the stage. (And you can be sure Lee puts his own stamp on the material. Of a terrific Mitt Romney gag, Tyson quips: ”You know that’s some Spike s—, right?”)
Tyson is certainly not a natural-born orator: ”You know I can’t talk!” Tyson laughs after bungling the word scrotum about four times. But it turns out he’s a champion trash-talker. Ex-wife Robin Givens gets the worst of it. (And I do mean the worst. Calling her ”Rotten Robin” is about the nicest thing he says about her.) Shock-haired boxing promoter Don King doesn’t come off too well either. However, Tyson himself does, even though — or perhaps especially because — he pulls no punches: He’s brutally honest about his drug use, his rape conviction, his prison time, his screw-ups, and his ignorance.
It turns out that Tyson’s also a pretty funny guy who does a killer imitation of a wannabe Staten Island gangster. In the 100-or-so-minute show, every joke may not be a knockout, but Tyson lands an impressive number of jabs. B?
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800-432-7250)