Since Tiger King mania swept the planet right as we are all quarantined due to COVID-19, plenty of talk show hosts and interviewers have reached out for comments from those featured on the show. People are clearly not done talking about the stranger than fiction series, so Netflix brought in actor/comedian Joel McHale for Tiger King Episode 8 aka ‘The Tiger King I.’ McHale would conduct virtual discussions with those willing to talk about experiences since the program has aired.
McHale was a great choice to conduct the interviews. He clearly binge watched Tiger King like the rest of us, and he’s able to blend serious questions with jokes and lighthearted jabs. He obviously has his own opinions on everyone involved, but he doesn’t make things especially awkward or hostile for any of them. It’s comical that there was a bit of immediate social media backlash from fans of the show who clearly aren’t familiar with Joel’s comedic style and felt that he was condescending. The participants seemed to take fan’s Facebook questions as well as Joel’s in stride.
Obviously there are a few stars that didn’t take kindly to the way that they were portrayed or how their storylines were spun, so you won’t be seeing Carole Baskin or Doc Antle in this episode, although one thing everyone seems to agree on when asked by Joel, is that Carole killed her husband. That sentiment is right up there with “Epstein didn’t kill himself,” in pop culture and there isn’t much she can do to change the public’s mind.
The most honest, and informative interview given was from Erik Cowie, the Head Zoo Keeper, who indicated he has yet to see the Tiger King. He not only confirms that healthy adult Tigers were being killed, which was reiterated later by others, and that he emphatically believes Joe Exotic should die in prison, but also that he doesn’t like comparisons to Vince Neil, and ends with a personal message to everyone watching, to get a few things off his chest. He genuinely seems like a sincere and funny dude that cares about the animals, and feels the weight of things that he was a participant in, willingly or not.
The Tiger King and I — a Tiger King after show hosted by Joel McHale and featuring brand new interviews with John Reinke, Joshua Dial, John Finlay, Saff, Erik Cowie, Rick Kirkman, and Jeff and Lauren Lowe — will premiere April 12 pic.twitter.com/8fbbNdaiDA
— Netflix (@netflix) April 9, 2020
Jeff and Lauren Lowe appear, and while Jeff understands he’s portrayed as a villain, he doesn’t shy away from answering important questions like, “How many Affliction t-shirts do you own?” because people need to know. In reality, that’s the toughest questions he’s asked, as most of their exchange is centered around other’s controversies rather than some of the stories that have arisen about himself. If another series of episodes were to be filmed it’s likely that Jeff and Lauren Lowe would be at the center of them since they own the zoo now, so it’s probably a strategic move not to burn any bridges. There are still quite a few legal matters unresolved, and you have to believe their “hot nanny” would like her time in the spotlight as well.
Despite everything, there are a few people that still seem to be sympathetic towards Joe Exotic through it all, and that includes John Reinke, and Saff. While both agree that Joe made terrible mistakes and deserved to pay for them, they do shed some positive light on the man as well, and don’t wish for him to die in prison. They both managed to escape the show with their images more or less intact, which is both ironic, and a joke that Joel probably missed out on. Saff especially has been great in other interviews as well as this one, and it was nice to see him with a bookshelf as his background instead of the junkyard chosen for Tiger King.
Joshua Dial who served as Joe’s campaign manager, hilariously took the time to double down on his, “f—k the Feds,” message, but also provided one of the only moments that gave Joel pause as he discussed the accidental shooting death of Travis Maldonado which occurred right in front of him. Undoubtedly the saddest story to emerge from the Tiger King series along with the mistreatment of animals, it once again serves as a sobering moment amongst the chaotic spectacle.
John Finlay, gets a chance to showcase his new set of teeth which he is still getting used to, while confirming obvious assumptions like Joe Exotic used someone else’s voice in his songs. He was able to provide an update on his tattoo, and set the record straight regarding his image as a drugged-out hillbilly, as he indicated that he has been clean for several years. To be fair, the choice to do all of his interviews shirtless was his own, so he didn’t do himself any favors in that regard.
In the last interview of Tiger King Episode 8, Rick Kirkham is able to demonstrate the far-reaching popularity of the series, and reflects on some of the cruelty to animals that he witnessed from Joe Exotic during his time filming at the park. He refers to Joe as “evil” and provided a somewhat shocking revelation stating that Joe was actually terrified of big cats despite his persona. He admits to being sucked into the surreal world of Joe Exotic, after starting out just aiming to capture what he realized would be an entertaining story.
As Kirkham states towards the close of his interview, with Joe going to prison and the Tiger King story gaining the global attention that it has, some ultimate good may finally come from it all, with more people now aware of the mistreatment of many of the tigers and other animals often found at these zoos.
It seems clear that everyone was aware on some level as to the horrible things taking place at Joe Exotic’s zoo and others featured, so fault can be found on all sides. It’s important now that everyone does their due diligence before supporting institutions like these, or we may end up with another Joe Exotic. No matter how entertaining it all was, that would be a travesty.
Tiger King Episode 8, ‘The Tiger King & I’ is now streaming on Netflix.