Tiger King: 5 things we learnt from Joel McHale's one-off Netflix special

(Image credit: Netflix)

Tiger King has been such a phenomenal success for Netflix that the streaming service has, even with the world gripped by a global pandemic, put together an after-show special. Recorded remotely, The Tiger King And I is hosted by Community's Joel McHale and features numerous members of the colourful cast of characters catching us up on what's happened to them since the documentary series aired. They're not in a fancy studio, but all self-isolating at home and speaking to McHale over Zoom. 

Over the course of 40 minutes, we learn a few key things – mainly that everyone involved in Tiger King thoroughly dislikes Joe Exotic, the zookeeper serving 22 years in jail for attempted murder and charges of killing big cats. But what else? We've rounded up the biggest talking points from The Tiger King And I.

Erik Cowie describes the abuse at Joe's zoo

(Image credit: Netflix)

Cowie, as McHale points out, probably comes across best in the documentary series. And here, once again, the head zookeeper seems particularly down to earth, discussing how the attention brought on by Tiger King has been surreal. However, startlingly, he also reveals the extent to which Exotic abused the tigers. 

“It’s been in the back of my head,” he says. "I think about it a lot – a lot of times when we put cats down, they used me because just my appearance or my voice [meant] I could get a cat up the side of the cage where we can dart it and tranquilise it. Those cats trusted me up until the end. Sometimes, I swear they’re like ‘Dude you let me down’.”

Asked whether Exotic should be freed, Cowie gives a direct answer: “No. Not no, but f*** no. Twenty-two years doing federal time – that guy’s gonna die in there. Good riddance.”

Jeff and Lauren Lowe think Carole Baskin did it

(Image credit: Netflix)

Jeff Lowe is not exactly happy with his portrayal in the documentary, saying the filmmakers make him out to be the villain of the piece. However, the zoo owner still claims that Carole Baskin – who has likewise called the series "salacious" – is guilty of murdering her husband. “There’s no question in my mind that she did it, and we’ve claimed that for years and years and years,” he says. His partner, Lauren, adds: “Abso-fucking-lutley.”

Lowe also believes Exotic is where he should be: “He should have gone on the stand and testified against himself, ‘cause those videos where he’s shooting Carole, hanging Carole, blowing Carole up – Joe didn’t get set up.”

Baskin has denied any allegations of murder against her and has been hugely critical of the series. She did not participate in the special. 

John Reinke says Exotic blew up his cabin

(Image credit: Netflix)

Reinke, the former zoo manager with no legs, has been quietly enjoying some of the fame that the Netflix series has brought. In the special, though, he adds some new shocking details about Exotic. 

“He was always belittling somebody. He just got to where it was all about the cameras and he’d fire somebody just ‘cause he needed to fire somebody," he says. "The man’s done a lot of stupid shit. I mean there towards the end, he got to where he’s blowing everything up. Hell, he blew up my golf cart and my damn cabin. Knocked the windshield out of my golf cart. Blew a hole in my cabin. Blew the window out.”

McHale, like everyone at home, expresses concern, but Reinke is – as you would expect from his general demeanour on the show – calm in his admission. 

Exotic visited shaman to deal with his husband's death

(Image credit: Netflix)

Josh Dial, who acted as a campaign manager for Exotic when he ran for President of the United States, discusses the death of Travis Maldonado, who was one of Exotic's husbands. “What Joe did is he spoke to a shaman," Dial says. "I felt like it worsened his condition. I’m all for holistic approaches but sometimes you need real legitimate counselling and medicine and he wasn’t getting it.”

Dial also says he's hoping to raise money to get counselling – and, once again, makes sure to say, "Fuck the feds."

Exotic was scared of Tigers

(Image credit: Netflix)

Rick Kirkham, the producer of Joe Exotic TV who moved to Norway in an attempt to leave everything behind, is perhaps the funniest on the special. Not only does he show us a paper clipping of himself, but he claims that Joe Exotic – AKA the Tiger King – is scared of tigers. 

“Joe was terrified of big cats," he says. "He was scared to death of lions and tigers. In the shots you see where he’s in with the two tigers, the white one is blind and the other one is on tranquilised. It’s idiotic to think how he’s become famous as ‘the tiger king’ when he’s so terrified of big cats.”

Finished Tiger King and need something new to watch on Netflix? Then check out these listicles for some guidance:

Jack Shepherd
Freelance Journalist

Jack Shepherd is the former Senior Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar. Jack used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film for the likes of GR+, Total Film, SFX, and others. You can now find Jack working as a freelance journalist and editor.