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Interview with Kiki Tyson

Mike Tyson on stage

HBO

What's your role on 'Undisputed Truth?'

Kiki Tyson

My first role is Mike Tyson's wife. I'm also the writer of this show and an executive producer.

HBO

What was the writing process like?

Kiki Tyson

I can't write with Mike behind me because he'll keep talking and I can't pick it all up at the same time. So initially, I went into a room by myself and laid out the format and structure. Then I consulted with him, and I went back and tried to work in what he likes. We have the same kind of comedic rhythms, so it's easy to write for him. We're able to finish each other's lines. That also comes from having the same sense of humor and also knowing somebody for a long time.

HBO

What do you think will surprise audiences about this show?

Kiki Tyson

I think people are going to be surprised at how much they actually have in common with Mike. You look at Mike; he has a tattoo on his face. You're thinking to yourself: "What could I have in common with this man who has acquired so much money, fame and infamy?" But when you see the show, you see his vulnerability. He's a product of his environment and what he's been through. Those are very relatable things.

And a lot of people don't know that Mike is a super funny person. For so long, people just knew him as this guy who was kind of angry. You could see the lighter side of him with 'The Hangover.' The show takes it to another level. You can tell that he's funny, but also extremely articulate and smart about his humor.

HBO

How do you combat preconceived ideas the audience may have about Mike?

Kiki Tyson

It was important that we establish the tone of the show in the opening monologue. We say things like, "Don't worry -- you'll all leave here with two ears tonight." We poke some fun at things that have happened to him: "You may have seen the documentary [James Toback's 'Tyson'], and that was some dark sh*t. This is going to be a lot lighter, just like my personality these days." From the beginning, you know that this is going to be a fun night.

HBO

Does Mike improvise on stage?

"[Mike] is very honest. It's hard to be up there and admit when you've made a mistake and to be naked that way in front of an audience."

Kiki Tyson

He mostly sticks to the script. That's a credit to Mike being a good actor, to make things seem new and fresh and as though that they're improvised even when they aren't. Occasionally, he will improvise something so funny that I'll make sure that we write it in. That's a great thing about the performance -- a lot of permanent additions to the script started off as improv.

HBO

How do you hope audiences view Mike after the show?

Kiki Tyson

The whole tone is designed so that you feel really good when you leave. You don't feel sorry for Mike. It's not a pity party; he doesn't want you to to take away that he's angry about anything. It's just his life, and he's okay with what it is.

HBO

He's very honest about that.

Kiki Tyson

Right. He is very honest. It's hard to be up there and admit when you've made a mistake and to be naked that way in front of an audience. He has had such a complex life. I'm just surprised that he's as normal as he is. I'm super proud of him that he's able to do this.

HBO

Has Mike evolved as a performer?

Kiki Tyson

Mike is a natural performer, meaning that he is more comfortable in front of an audience than he is when an audience isn't around. I would be like deer in the headlights if I had to be on stage alone, but Mike is super good at that. It's like it's been ingrained in him his entire life to be on a stage. He feeds off the energy of the crowd. His range as a performer is just expanding with each show.

HBO

How did you and Mike meet?

Kiki Tyson

The first time we talked was over the phone. I was 13 years old. I'm 37 now. Mike knows my dad, and they called me from one of his fights in Atlantic City. I thought it was one of my father's friends playing around, so I hung up on him three times.

I didn't see him again until I was about 18 years old. He was always really respectful; it was a very innocent relationship. Then I bumped into him when I was 24, and that's when things changed. A couple of years later, we tried to date and it was a disaster. We tried to live together and it was horrible. We just both were going through some things, and we would always just bump back into each other. You can be with the right person at the wrong time and it's not going to work. This time, the timing was good for both of us.

HBO

It seems like Mike gives you a lot of credit for his success.

Kiki Tyson

That's because I tell him to. I'm joking. He's a good husband. Everything that Mike is doing is because he wants to do it. We can't change anyone, but you can be an influence to change. He's influenced me to change on many levels. I feel like I'm a better person because of this relationship. I believe he feels the same way too. He's not consistently happy; no one is. But I do believe that gratitude is a key factor for both of us. Mike had a daughter that he lost. If we're not going to be grateful, we have to at least have gratitude for and honor her life.

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth

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