Tiger King: 11 things you didn’t know about Joe Exotic and the Netflix documentary series

From Joe Exotic’s Louis Theroux interview to Doc Antle performing with Britney Spears and an update on Carole Baskin’s ex-husband’s disappearance - discover secrets from the show.

By Sophia Moir Published: 20 April 2020 - 3.52pm
Netflix Netflix Tiger King key art

It’s the biggest TV show in the world right now.

True crime documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness exposes the seedy underbelly of private cat ownership in the US, following the highly controversial private zookeeper and big cat collector Joseph Maldonado-Passage - aka Joe Exotic.

Tiger King Joe Exotic with tiger Netflix

Combining our insatiable appetite for murder mystery with what can only be described as a unique set of eccentric characters, Tiger King arrived at a time when millions of people across the globe are social distancing - stuck at home with only their TV box for company.

But if you’ve watched all seven episodes of Tiger King, we reveal 11 surprising facts about the Netflix series - as well as Carole Baskin, Doc Antle and Jeff Lowe… 


*SPOILERS for Tiger King below*

1. Joe Exotic once featured in a Louis Theroux documentary

We know from watching the series that Joe Exotic spent much of his time filming a reality TV series that never made it to air - as well as producing his own daily reality show, JoeExoticTV, which still exists on YouTube. But in 2011, he featured on Louis Theroux's documentary series America’s Most Dangerous Pets, where Theroux travelled to the United States to meet individuals like Joe Exotic who keep private collections of  including bears, big cats and dangerous primates. You can watch the documentary on BBC iPlayer now.

Joe Exotic Louis Theroux BBC iPlayer

2. Doc Antle has performed with Britney Spears

In the show, we meet Mahamayavi Bhagavan 'Doc' Antle - who's not a real doctor, by the way. He’s the founder of Myrtle Beach Safari, and a fellow big cat enthusiast - but he’s also not been shy about appearing on the small screen. Doc Antle himself actually performed with Britney Spears at the 2001 MTV VMAs.

Pop culture enthusiasts will no doubt remember her performance as she had an albino Burmese python casually draped around her shoulders. But look a little closer, and you'll see a tiger in a cage behind her - accompanied by Doc Antle!

Doc Antle and Britney Spears Jeff Kravitz/Getty

3. Tiger King has re-ignited the discussion around the disappearance of Carole Baskin’s ex-husband

In the series, we meet Joe Exotic's arch nemesis Carole Baskin, an outspoken animal rights activist who runs the animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue in Florida. It's revealed that Carole's second husband Don Lewis, who she used to run the animal sanctuary with, went missing in August 1997 - never to be seen again.

Many people in the documentary - including Joe Exotic, along with members of Don’s family - point the finger at Carole for Don's death, accusing her of murdering him and feeding his body to their tigers.

Carole has always denied she had anything to do with Don's disappearance, and has never been charged with any offence. But after the Netflix series aired, law enforcement in Tampa, Florida - where Don lived with Carole - asked for new leads on Don's disappearance, reigniting the mystery surrounding the missing person’s case...

4. Speaking of Carole Baskin, she's REALLY not happy with the makers of the Netflix series

In a lengthy blog post after the show premiered on Netflix, Carole wrote that she was 'disappointed' as the show was not what she was expecting. She was apparently approached by Netflix about making the big cats version of Blackfish - the documentary film which exposed abuse at SeaWorld. Instead, she says the series "had the sole goal of being as salacious and sensational as possible to draw viewers". Uh oh...

Tiger King Carole Baskin Netflix

5. The show has a LOT of celebrity fans

Celebs have been stuck at home too due to social distancing guidelines around the world, so Tiger King on Netflix has been their true crime binge watch of choice. Actor Jared Leto's been hosting viewing parties on Twitter, as well as dressing up as Joe Exotic - complete with cuddly toy tiger, below.

Model Chrissy Teigen Photoshopped her son's face onto the show's promotional image, as did actor Dax Shepard - who hopes to be cast as Mr. Exotic himself in Hollywood's eventual movie biopic. Kim Kardashian has also been taking to Twitter to share her views on Don Lewis’ disappearance, while rapper Cardi B’s been told she’s not allowed to start a GoFundMe account for Joe Exotic.

6. There could be a season 2 of Tiger King on Netflix

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Tiger King producers Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin said the story of the Tiger King could be continued. Rebecca said: "We have a crazy amount of footage and it's a story that's still unfolding. We're not sure yet, but there could be a follow-up on this story because there's a lot that's still unfolding in it, and it'll be just as dramatic and just as colorful as what has unfolded these past few years."

7. There's another Joe Exotic TV series in the works

Before Tiger King was released on Netflix, there was already a Wondery podcast about Joe Exotic, and it was previously announced that the podcast is being made into a TV series. Deadline reports that Universal Content Productions (UCP) are adapting the podcast for television, and it’s being executive produced and will star Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Bombshell), who's been cast as Carole Baskin!

8. Joe Exotic’s zoo is still open - but it’s not doing very well

Formerly called the G.W. Zoo when it was run by Zoe Exotic, the park has been renamed to the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and it’s being run by Joe Exotic's former business partner-turned-rival, Jeff Lowe.

Eric Goode, who worked on the Netflix series, told Entertainment Weekly that the zoo is struggling financially.

"I got a very long text today from Jeff Lowe, who is running Joe’s old zoo," she said.

"All I can tell you is that he is basically operating on fumes. No one is going now and there’s no source of income, and that's been going on for a long time. It's not something that has just happened because of what's happening in the world today [with coronavirus]."

Jeff Lowe Netflix

9. Joe Exotic didn't perform those country songs...

Some of the most meme-worthy moments of Tiger King are when Joe Exotic sings the most outlandish country songs, usually while in a tiger cage and wearing a cowboy hat.

Well journalist and author Robert Moor - who worked on the aforementioned Joe Exotic podcast - revealed that Joe didn't actually write or sing any of the songs. They're from a band called the Clinton Johnson Band, and Joe 'just sang softly over the top.' Consider our dreams crushed… 

10. Joe’s topless ex-husband got new teeth!

One of the interview subjects in Tiger King is John Finlay, Joe Exotic's ex-husband who for reasons we may never know insisted on doing his on-camera interviews completely topless. He was also mocked online for his missing teeth - but he's since had his teeth fixed and looks like a completely different person!

11. The alligators once belonged to Michael Jackson

In the series, we see Joe Exotic’s reptile enclosure mysteriously burn down in the middle of the night. But, what the Netflix series failed to mention was that the alligators and crocodiles that perished once belonged to Michael Jackson, and lived on his Neverland ranch.

According to a 2015 report in the LA Times, “the exotic pets once belonged to the late musician and were taken from Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County after it closed”.

Watch the Tiger King trailer

Stream all episodes of Tiger King on Netflix worldwide.