‘Tiger King’: Louis Theroux Reveals What Joe Exotic Would’ve Done If the Zoo Went Bankrupt

When you think Netflix’s hit docuseries, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, can’t get any more bizarre, it does. More information has come to light since the show wrapped. This includes a few interesting tidbits from someone who once worked with Joseph Maldonado-Passage (aka Joe Exotic) before Tiger King fame — documentarian, Louis Theroux.

Louis Theroux and Joseph Maldonado-Passage have a history together

Tiger King
Tiger King | Netflix

Once upon a time, award-winning journalist, Louis Theroux, created the documentary, Louis Theroux: America’s Most Dangerous Pets. The 2011 film starred Maldonado-Passage and his animals. Theroux explored the world of “dangerous” pets at the previously titled G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma (now owned by Jeff and Lauren Lowe).

Three years before Maldonado-Passage became the infamous “Tiger King,” Theroux caught an insider’s glimpse at the big cat owner’s true colors. However, he also feels a slight twinge of envy with the success of the Netflix docuseries.

“I greatly enjoyed Tiger King, my pleasure only slightly attenuated by a sense of envy and missed opportunity that I wasn’t involved in what has turned out to be a global smash,” he told The Times.

“I do recall that, having made our documentary, which came out as America’s Most Dangerous Pets, I felt there was probably some kind of longer-form series to be made about that world,” he said.

“Though I had no idea Joe would end up caught up in a murder-for-hire case and I really can’t claim any kind of prescience other than noticing that it is pretty weird for Americans to be keeping multitudes of large exotic animals in small cages.”

With the obsession with Tiger King, Theroux is speaking out about Maldonado-Passage, Carole Baskin, and why it’s hard to “dislike” the former zookeeper.

Theroux has a lot of feelings about Maldonado-Passage’s obsession with Carole Baskin

Maldonado-Passage is serving a 22-year sentence for 17 counts that stem from animal abuse charges and a murder-for-hire scheme to kill Carole Baskin. Theroux claims “Joe Exotic” was “preoccupied” with his “grudge” against Baskin even in 2011.

Theroux said he had “no idea” Maldonado-Passage could ever be a part of Baskin’s murder. However, he admitted he thought Maldonado-Passage was “pretty weird,” in that same interview with The Times.

“It was hard to dislike the man himself, maybe because he seemed neither to be hiding many of his misdeeds nor to take himself too seriously,” Theroux said.

“Joe’s grudge against Carole preoccupied him when we filmed. He would rant about her, mentioning his belief that she’d had one of her husbands killed.”

If you haven’t caught up to Tiger King’s madness, one of the subplots explores the disappearance of Baskin’s second husband, Don Lewis. Internet memes and circulating theories suggest Baskin had something to do with it — something Maldonado-Passage spoke about often.

Just this week, Maldonado-Passage gave his first interview since Tiger King’s release saying he’s “done with the Carole Baskin saga.”

“It’s now time to turn the tables and Joe gets out of jail a free man and exonerated from all these charges,” he said.

Here’s what ‘Joe Exotic’ would’ve done if the zoo went bankrupt

Theroux previously spoke about his visit with Maldonado-Passage while filming the documentary. Maldonado-Passage said if Theroux got in the cage with the tigers, he’d shoot Theroux in the head to spare him a worse fate.

Theroux “liked spending time with” Maldonado-Passage. He described the zookeeper as an “emotional dude” who tried to shut down the documentary multiple times. He was allegedly worried about the producers’ angle of his story.

“I recall he was crying and then he took off his mic at one point and stomped off and then he came back,” Theroux said.

Theroux thinks allegations surrounding Baskin’s involvement in killing Lewis is “very unlikely.” Still, he found the most troubling part of his experience in a “what-if” scenario.

“The most troubling thing he said was probably that if the park went bankrupt he would kill all the animals,” Theroux added.

Luckily, viewers don’t have to wait and see if that situation unfolds.