The sordid tale of “Joe Exotic” as portrayed in the hit Netflix docuseries, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, keeps getting weirder (if that’s even possible). The seven-part series showcased Oklahoma exotic zookeeper, Joseph Maldonado-Passage (born Joseph Schreibvogel), who refers to himself as the “Tiger King,” because he rules over his kingdom of big cats.
It’s impossible to sum up the synopsis of Tiger King without alluding the fact that Exotic is now serving a 22-year sentence. It all stems from a murder-for-hire plot against a longtime rival, Carole Baskin, plus multiple wildlife violations. Exotic threatened someone long before Baskin. Here’s what we know.
Who is Louis Theroux?
Singapore-born Louis Theroux — and cousin of actor Justin Theroux — is an award-winning documentarian who’s been the face of British documentary films for over 25 years. His trajectory began in 1994 as a correspondent for Michael Moore’s satirical NBC news show TV Nation. He’s covered everything from Nazis to UFO investigators.
In his 2019 memoir, Gotta Get Theroux This, Theroux admitted the spotlight isn’t easy.
“I’ve made it my habit to be slightly invisible in my programs. Although I’m on camera, I don’t really give that much of myself. I think that’s what’s needed, because of the nature of the programs. I’m a straight man in a world that is somewhat weird, mysterious, dangerous or just emotionally charged in one way or another,” he said.
Some viewers of Tiger King might already be familiar with Exotic’s eccentric personality. He once appeared on Louis Theroux: America’s Most Dangerous Pets. The memory of it, however, is not exactly a pleasant one, according to Theroux.
Here’s what Exotic said to Theroux
In 2011, Theroux toured the G.W. Zoo, owned and operated by Exotic for an episode of his documentary at the time, Louis Theroux: America’s Most Dangerous Pets. Theroux toured Exotics private collection of big cats and chimpanzees.
The show’s synopsis read:
“Travelling to America’s heartlands, Louis Theroux spends time with an Oklahoma man who has bred and collected over 150 tigers, visits the woman who privately owns one of America’s largest collections of chimpanzees, and finds himself in uncomfortably close contact with a number of big cats and dangerous primates.”
While it could’ve been an ordinary visit (is there such a thing with Exotic?), one conversation between Theroux and Exotic eerily mirrors that of Exotic’s comments about Baskin.
In one wild clip, Exotic tells Theroux what would happen if Theroux got in the cage with the tigers.
“If he was to get you and not kill you and eat you right away, he’s going to torment you. So, if you were to get in there and I was out here trying to get you out he would be on top of you covering you up. I’d just shoot you, it would be more humane,” he said.
“You would shoot me? In the head?” Theroux replied. Exotic responded with, “yeah.”
The conversation may have felt uncomfortable at the time, but considering Exotic’s alleged murder-for-hire plot against Baskin — in which he’s in prison for — the clip takes on a whole new meaning.
How does Exotic feel about the docuseries?
“He has lived his entire life just to be famous and so to finally realise this fame is just… He’s tickled pink,” Goode said. “Even though he’s behind bars it’s really interesting to see Joe’s response – it’s incredible and very surprising. He’s absolutely thrilled.”
The director revealed he wasn’t exactly Exptic’s biggest fan, adding he had “mixed feelings” because [Exotic] did “horrific things.”
“He was one of those people that would try to tell you what you wanted to hear,” Goode said. “He’s very manipulative – and smart in many ways – but in the end, you know all of these people, including Carole, created their own little world within a world. Most of them are living outside of mainstream America.”
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness is available on Netflix now.