‘Tiger King’: Why Joe Exotic’s Ex-Husband John Finlay Was Shirtless During Interviews

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness has taken the world by storm. Netflix has captured the stories of big cat fanatics Joe “Exotic,” “Doc” Antle, and Carole Baskin (amongst others) in an insanely twisted docuseries.  

The show centers around several eccentric zookeepers, big cats, and a murder-for-hire plot, but there are several minor characters featured that are just as interesting as the consistent twists and turns in the plot. One of those individuals is John Finlay.

The most notable thing about Finlay was his interviewing style — he was consistently shirtless whenever filmmakers sat down to do one-on-one interviews. Thanks to directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, we finally know why Finlay was shirtless throughout Tiger King.

John Finlay Tiger King tattoos
John Finlay | Netflix

What is ‘Tiger King’ about?

Tiger King is a seven-part documentary that centers mainly around Joe “Exotic” Maldonado-Passage (nee: Schreibvogel), owner of the G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma. Throughout the series, it becomes apparent that Joe Exotic has a penchant for big cats, sequined tops, and being famous. 

Over five years, filmmakers captured Exotic’s transformation from a big cat advocate to a power-hungry businessman. Eventually, Exotic’s sole focus became less about breeding and selling tiger cubs and more about his hatred for Carole Baskin, owner of Big Cat Rescue near Tampa, Florida. He made countless death threats to Baskin, who opposed Exotic’s zoo and his breeding and selling of tiger cubs for profit. 

Who is John Finlay?

Finlay was Exotic’s second of four husbands. After he graduated from high school, Finlay was hired to help run Exotic’s zoo and roadshow. At that time, Exotic was traveling across the country with his animals and putting on shows in malls.

Finlay fell in love with Exotic, and the two were married in 2014. Their three-way wedding ceremony also included 19-year-old Travis Maldonado, whose accidental suicide was captured while filming the docuseries.

After only a year of being married, Finlay claimed Exotic became manipulative and controlling. Finlay was charged with battery after he and Exotic got into a brawl in a public parking lot. Despite their fallout, Finlay continued to work in the park. He later married the park secretary Stormey. The couple share a daughter.

Why John Finlay was shirtless during his interviews 

Tiger King directors Goode and Chaiklin spoke with the Los Angeles Times about the docuseries, answering a few “burning questions” fans had — one of which was “Why was Joe Exotic’s ex-husband, John Finlay, shirtless in all of his interviews?”

Chaiklin said, “I think he was very proud of his tattoos. That’s a big thing in that particular culture.” Finlay has over 50 tattoos, which cover most of his upper torso. His tattoos include a tiger on his right forearm, script that reads “For My Husband Joe” on his upper arm, and several intricate tribal tattoos across his chest and stomach.

Finlay has described his other tattoos, which include “portraits of [his] parents, portraits of animals [he] hand raised, names of animals [he] raised, and the most recent one that matches with [his] wife’s.” The tattoo across Finlay’s lower stomach, which formerly read “PRIVATELY OWNED BY JOE EXOTIC,” was featured being covered up by a tattoo artist in the final episode of the docuseries. 

Catch up on Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness while you’re practicing social distancing