Review – Say It Ain’t So, Joe! (“Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness”)

It’s not a movie… BUT! It has all the plotting, pathos, twists and turns, backstabbing, and WTH surprises that only a Hollywood motion picture would have! In this seven-part Netflix docu-series, which is sweeping the country and creating quite a stir in its wake, we are witness to some of the worse people who ever lived.

I guess it’s safe to say this documentary started with filmmaker/producer Rick Kirkham who had the genius idea of taking a very weird YouTuber guy who kept & sold tigers in Oklahoma and turning him into a sensation. Boy! Did THAT ever snowball! The YouTuber is Joe Maldonado, aka Joe Passage, aka Joe Exotic, a gay, mullet-haired, flamboyant, narcissistic, sociopath with delusions of grandeur that ran a semi-profitable private zoo called The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. Open to the public, he’d charge patrons to see and touch rare white tigers (among others) with a staff that was filled with ex-convicts and loyal vagrants.

Now Joe, it seems, has an arch enemy (like a Joker to his Batman), and her name is Carole Baskin. A creepy women down in Florida who also runs a semi-profitable private zoo full of tigers open to the public called Big Cat Rescue. But SHE has a, shall we say, interesting backstory? This woman, while waging a personal war against Joe, may (or may not have) killed and fed her ex-husband to her own tigers! But that’s still under debate. Anyway, these two are locked in a never ending war of name-calling and mud-slinging, while two other private tiger zookeepers slip under the radar. They’re “Doc” Antle of South Carolina, who has a vast ranch and questionable practices with his tiger cubs (does he kill them at a certain age?), and Tim Stark of Charleston, Indiana who has a modest collection.

As the series progresses Joe, ever the thick-headed and stubborn man that he is, refuses to give up on his zoo and his vicious YouTube attacks on Carole, so much so, that his zoo suffers. A worker’s arm is torn off by a tiger, Joe’s video barn mysteriously burns down, PETA is after him, and his various marriages to his several husbands are suffering. But just as things are going wrong, in rolls a hot-shot, high-rolling Las Vegas entrepreneur named Jeff Lowe to save the day! Promising a large bank roll and an end to all his worries, Jeff seems to be the angel Joe’s been waiting for!

But this angel turns out to be the devil in disguise! Jeff, it turns out, is a con man! He’s really broke, in debt, and takes over Joe’s zoo with his own less-than-savory cronies, much to the ire of Joe. As Carole continues her attacks and lawsuits, Joe gets the brilliant idea to hire Jeff’s shady friend, Allen Glover, to kill Carole! Oooooooooo!! Big mistake there! Murder-for-hire is a big no-no, especially when the Feds are in on it! And that’s where iffy businessman James Garretson comes into the fold and becomes a key player; eventually being the Judas who sells out Joe and gets him arrested and sent to prison.

Intermingled in this series we see the absolutely looney antics of Joe, Carole, Doc, Jeff, and all of their co-horts; all of whom are clearly the worst kind of people imaginable, with Joe being their King! He’s seriously delusional, painfully unaware of his short-comings, and fancies himself a singer/songwriter (check out all his CD’s!!) as well as a politician (he actually ran for President in 2016!).

Watching this docu-series it’s hard to believe this saga actually played out; that it wasn’t all some kind of a staged hoax or fake mockumentary. But it really happened and all captured on video, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Okay, most of it’s ugly. It’s no wonder why this is Netflix’s #1 highest watched show right now. It’s mesmerizing; like a train wreck that’s shooting out fireworks. You can’t look away.

**Currently streaming only on Netflix

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