Louis Theroux: ‘It was hard not to be charmed’ by Tiger King star Joe Exotic

Lizzie Edmonds
·4-min read
<p>Theroux with Joe Exotic</p> (BBC)

Theroux with Joe Exotic


Louis Theroux has said it was "hard not to be charmed" by Tiger King star Joe Exotic - suggesting his “vulnerability” was what gives him a power over people.

The broadcaster has revisited his 2011 documentary America’s Most Dangerous Pets for a new BBC show, which was released on Monday.

Louis Theroux: Shooting Joe Exotic came after the whirlwind success of Netflix series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness in 2020.

In his show, Theroux goes through archive and unseen footage of his time with Exotic ten years ago. He also re-visits several individuals including animal rights campaigner Carole Baskin and her husband, Howard.

He also meets with people attempting to free Exotic - real name Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage - who is currently serving a 22-year jail sentence.

In 2019, the former owner and operator of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, was convicted on 17 charges of animal abuse and two counts of attempted murder for hire for a plot to kill Big Cat Rescue CEO Baskin.

Speaking to Gentleman’s Journal, Theroux spoke about his follow-up show and Exotic’s personality and charm.

He also addressed comparisons between the star and former President Donald Trump - and how the two both have an “unlikely hold over people.”

He said: “The parallels with Trump are interesting.

“The part of Joe that’s maybe misunderstood is his vulnerability; but also the sense that his fragile qualities gave him a kind of power.

“If you were in his orbit it was hard not to be charmed by him; but at the same time that meant supporting him, and being aware he was thin skinned, and tip-toeing around him. I was conscious that he wasn’t robust in the way that many big personalities are.

“By the end of the 8 or 9 days I’d spent with him, I’d run out of road with him.”

He continued: “In passing I’d like to acknowledge the slightly eerie parallels that existed between the Trump vs Hilary Clinton duality that existed in the 2016 president race, and the Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin situation, where you have a shameless but charismatic and flamboyant man with weird hair who has this unlikely hold over vast numbers of people; and this more responsible, more correct, more thoughtful person who is for some reason viewed as censorious and pious and irritating, unfairly in some respects.

“The way in which people trolled Hilary Clinton in a way has its analogue here in the Tiger King world, where as a result of the series, Carole Baskin has endured an enormous amount of trolling. For days, weeks, months afterwards, she was getting round the clock death threats.”

In his BBC documentary, Theroux speaks to Baskin about the online abuse and mockery she suffered following the Netflix show, in particular around the disappearance of her first husband Don Lewis, in 1997 which is still considered an open case.

Exotic claims Baskin had something to do with his dissapearance.

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Her husband Howard speaks about the impact the Netflix show had on their lives, adding: “In the days or couple weeks before the release, when I realised Don was going to be a subject of the thing, I asked [Tiger King co-director Rebecca Chaiklin] ‘Well, how do you think people are going to view what you’ve done with Don? How is it portrayed?’ And her answer was ,’I think they’ll be scratching their heads’.

“Well, nobody’s scratching their heads. Most people came away convinced that Carole killed Don but in my view, what they did wasn’t just unethical – it was outright cruel.”

Baskin strongly denies any wrongdoing.

Theroux also speaks about how Exotic had an impact on him - and made the broadcaster “solicit feelings of protectiveness” over him during their time together.

Speaking about some archive footage, Theroux says: “At one point, he gets upset and rips his microphone off. But what was striking, watching the footage back, wasn’t that he was upset; it was that I asked him if I could have a hug.

“It’s not every day I interview someone and then at the end I need a hug from them to make sure they’re okay. It says something about how he was able to solicit those feelings of protectiveness from those around him. I needed the hug. He didn’t even want the hug.”

Read Louis Theroux’s full interview on thegentlemansjournal.com

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