Mike Tyson, who once threw devastating punches in the boxing ring, is set to hurl silly punchlines in a new sketch-comedy series on YouTube.
The former heavyweight champ has teamed with Shots Studios, which runs a YouTube comedy network with a handful of young digital stars like Lele Pons and Rudy Mancuso. Shots has produced an f-bomb-laced rap video with Tyson — the sole clip on his official YouTube channel right now. The video, a parody of Soulja Boy’s diss track of Chris Brown, has racked up more than 2 million views since it went up Jan. 17.
Based on the metrics from that video, along with a popular Mancuso video where Tyson plays his brutally honest boxing trainer, Shots Studios CEO John Shahidi said the company is moving forward on a regular series with Tyson that will run on YouTube at least twice monthly starting in March. Pop star Justin Bieber is the most famous of Shots’ investors, which include DCM Ventures, Upfront Ventures, Universal Music Group, MLB Ventures and WI Harper Group.
But can Tyson, 50, cut it as a funnyman — especially one playing to Shots’ core demo of teens and 20-somethings who have never heard of his prize-fight exploits?
“Mike’s a very funny guy, on camera and in real life,” said Shahidi. “We’ll introduce him to a whole new audience, and we’ll introduce our audience to Mike.”
Tyson has had several comedy turns in his post-pugilist career, including cameos in the first two “Hangover” movies and TV shows like Adult Swim’s “Mike Tyson Mysteries.” He also appears in the upcoming prank-comedy film “Public Disturbance” from the Janoskians, an Australian comedy troupe that rose to fame on YouTube. In addition, Tyson has guested several times on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” including a 2015 appearance in a sketch where he “unboxes” a Strawberry Shortcake doll.
“Hanging out with Mike, if you have to two hours of work to do, you need to carve out four hours because you’ll be laughing so much,” Shahidi said.
Shots Studios’ partnership with Tyson is part of its hard pivot to become a digital media company. Founded in 2013, San Francisco-based Shots originally launched as a selfie-sharing app. It reportedly attracted as many as 10 million users, and Twitter at one point was rumored to be looking at acquiring the company. But the bid to be a social network vying against the likes of Facebook’s Instagram and Snapchat was a losing battle, Shahidi concluded.
The company phased out the photo app last fall, and the rebranded Shots Studios is now going full-bore as a small multichannel network with creators including Lele Pons, Rudy Mancusco, Anwar Jibawi, Awkward Puppets, Hannah Stocking, Jazmyn Bieber (Justin’s little sister), Inanna Sarkis and Lorenzo “Renny” Cromwell. Many were Vine stars, who suddenly didn’t have a home when Twitter killed the six-second video platform, according to Shahidi, and Shots is now creating longer-form material with them.
More recently, several of Shots’ creators have made business moves outside of YouTube. Lele Pons announced that she’s a digital ambassador for Cover Girl — and she also is walking the Dolce & Gabbana fashion show on Sunday in Milan, Italy.
Shahidi said the engineers who worked on the Shots app, led by his brother, chief creative officer Sam Shahidi, are now focused on video analytics to determine the optimal way to produce comedy content for YouTube. The team examines specific points in each video: Where users “liked” or “disliked” it, and where they posted the highest number of comments. Shots has been able to hit an average video-completion rate of 80%, according to John Shahidi — well above what he says is an industry average of 37%.
“It took us almost two years to understand YouTube,” said Shahidi.
Shots Studios has produced 319 total videos, which have accumulated about 535 million views to date. Its content averages 4.1 million views per day, with audiences watching 12 million minutes daily. Shahidi says in looking for new talent, Shots is most interested in consistent engagement rates — rather than subscriber counts. The science-based content development approach, he said, is yielding far more views per video for Shots’ creators than influencers with larger follower counts.
Which brings us back to Mike Tyson. The ex-boxer, who sports a distinctive tribal face tattoo and is prone to lisping, tested very well in the videos Shots has put up so far. The skits for his channel are being created with Shots’ L.A.-based writing-producing crew, and will feature other talent from the company’s roster. “He’s going to be silly,” Shahidi said.
Tyson is repped by ICM Partners, while his wife, Kiki, serves as his manager. The legendary fighter — who earned such nicknames as Iron Mike and Kid Dynamite — holds the record as the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA and IBF world heavyweight titles, and the first to hold all three titles simultaneously. In 2011, Tyson was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame.
Iron Mike’s potential next act as a YouTuber follows other celebs who have launched digital businesses leveraging their notoriety, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kim Kardashian West and Ellen DeGeneres.
Eventually, Shots Studios wants to evolve to producing even longer-form, TV-length shows. Shahidi sees an opportunity in tackling live programming, as well. “Every creator right now using live looks into the camera. It’s really boring,” Shahidi said. “When we do live, we will be the West Coast version of ‘Saturday Night Live.'”
Watch the Shots-produced music video “If You Show Up – Soulja Boy Diss Song” featuring Tyson’s rapping and numerous gyrating women (below and at this link):