Hey, all you cool cats and kittens. If you’ve binged all seven episodes of Tiger King and are hungry for more, we have some excellent news for you: There’s a Tiger King podcast, and it dives even deeper than the docuseries. Hosted by journalist Robert Moor, the Wondery podcast Joe Exotic: Tiger King explores the nooks and crannies we didn’t learn about in Netflix’s docuseries. Moor spent years obtaining exclusive interviews and spending time with many of the key players we were introduced to in Tiger King, sometimes in a more personal capacity than the makers of the Netflix series.
Joe Exotic: Tiger King has seven episode so far (including bonus episodes), but more are on the way. Episodes range from 35 to 40 minutes long and while the Netflix show introduces a host of outside characters, each podcast episode focuses mainly on Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, giving listeners more intel and background to some of the narrative we learned in Tiger King. Most of it is, as you can imagine, is stranger than fiction — but fare more intimate.
For instance, in episode 1, “The Tiger King,” Moor introduces Exotic by showing listeners a far more heartbreaking side to the exotic cat collector. According to the podcast, Exotic has a late husband named Brian Rhyne, who tragically died of complications due to HIV. It was described in the podcast as a pivotal moment for Exotic. That’s when he went from being Joe Schreibvogel to Joe Exotic; his entire demeanour changed and “Joe Exotic was born.”
The podcast also describes how Exotic got his first tigers for the zoo: He was called to a barn where someone was holding several mistreated tigers. He saved them all, bringing them back to his zoo, aka the GW Zoo. After Exotic’s husband died, Exotic began using his tigers for attention and as a way to make some cash. He brought a tiger to a gay club one night, and that's when he realised that people really wanted to see tigers up close. He teamed up with a magician and the two traveled from malls to flea markets hosting tiger magic shows (which we already know from the Netflix series).
But the true reasons to listen in are for the strange details. For example, Moor describes a truly unique experience that involved Exotic, a sheep, and fireworks. During rehearsals for a tiger magic show, the crew realised they couldn’t use pyrotechnics around a tiger in a cage — seems obvious, but we're listening — because the tiger was scared of the loud noises and cowered in the corner. Exotic had a "solution": He spray painted a sheep orange with black stripes and insisted that, from a distance, nobody would be able to tell the difference, and this way, they wouldn't have to spook a tiger. He had a handler step into the cage to hold on to the sheep so that it wouldn’t get scared of the all the noise. At the end of the show, people asked Exotic what the hell they'd just watched, he maintained that it was a tiger, of course.
Joe Exotic: Tiger King goes into more detail about Baskin’s life as well. For instance, when Baskin met her late husband Don Lewis, he actually lied to her about his name, telling her it was Bob Martin. She didn’t find out for awhile what his real name was because Lewis wanted to know whether she liked him or his money. Baskin, then Carole Murdock, and Lewis were married at a courthouse and celebrated after with Wendy’s.
Unlike the doc, which devotes just one episode to this relationship, Moor explains that Baskin actually had a hand in Lewis’ real estate business, and their foray into animal collecting all started when they bought llamas to eat, and thus help maintain, the grass around their property. They went to a bobcat auction, and as soon as Baskin learned that the highest bidder was a taxidermist, she and Lewis paid an enormous sum to keep that bobcat from being killed. One bobcat turned into 56 bobcats, and Wildlife on Easy Street was born.
Other details include that Baskin invited visitors and she bred and sold her cats (Baskin claims this was to help the animals) and that she even allowed visitors to sleep on the grounds for an immersive experience. She amassed more than a hundred cats, including tigers and lions — all of whom were considered rescues. However, at a later animal auction, she recognised one of the cats being auctioned, most likely to be slaughtered, she feared. The gut punch? It was a cat that she had bred and sold. From that day on, she claimed she would stop breeding. But, reportedly, Lewis vehemently disagreed with her. Even Anne McQueen, Lewis’ executive assistant, explains that Lewis treasured his money more than anything; and if he and Baskin stopped breeding, then they stopped making money. Tensions (which people had witnessed) grew, and by August, 1997, Lewis mysteriously disappeared.
And that’s only a snippet of the details this podcast whips up.
If you're looking for more Tiger King, you can start your journey on Wondery, Apple Podcasts, Castbox, or Spotify. The most recent episode, “Bonus: Rick Kirkham Keeps Rolling,” dropped on April 2 and new episodes generally drop every two days. You can listen to the preview here: