Netflix’s surprise hit Tiger King is full of larger-than-life characters, many of whom have been engaged in bitter, years-long feuds. But as Joshua Dial (one of the show’s few remotely rational participants) points out towards the end of the series, something that pretty much everybody in Tiger King had in common was a huge ego. So it makes sense that Joe Exotic, the single person in the documentary who was the most obsessed with becoming famous, is delighted that now so many people know his name.
“Joe has called me quite a few times over the last few days and weeks,” documentarian and series creator Eric Goode told the LA Times. “One, he is absolutely ecstatic about the series and the idea of being famous. He’s absolutely thrilled.”
Tiger King director and producer Rebecca Chaiklin added: “You can hardly talk to him without him mentioning the amount of press he’s getting. He says people are asking to see his Prince Albert and girls are sending him sexy bikini pictures even though he’s gay. He’s over the moon. Having kept in pretty close touch with him while he’s been in a horrible county prison, this has raised his spirits. Joe definitely did some horrible things to his animals. He was very abusive to them and he shot five tigers, no question about it. But what has happened to him has also been hard.”
Last week, Joe Exotic filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worth $ 94 million, and petitioned the White House for a presidential pardon. But according to Goode, Exotic’s efforts aren’t solely self-serving.
“I think he is trying to be an advocate for — no surprise — criminal justice reform,” he said. “He is in a cage and of course he’s gonna say that he now recognizes what he did to these animals. With Joe, we have empathy for him, but at the same time, he’s someone who really knows what to say at the right moment. I take it with a big grain of salt when he says he is now apologetic for keeping animals.”