MELBOURNE – Stuck in quarantine and starved for any entertainment that isn’t staring at your phone watching people do push-ups on Instagram is a recipe for success for any reality TV show. But throw in a gun-toting, tiger-owning, homosexual polygamist from Oklahoma charged for conspiring to commit murder? That’s a perfect storm of content.
That perfect storm is exactly what the makers of Tiger King have created. The seven episode limited series is currently the top streaming show on Netflix in the US and the only thing Twitter is talking about other than COVID-19. The show is centered around the life and literal trials of Joe Exotic, a Tom Sawyer type character that Mark Twain could have dreamed up if he were instead a dangerous meth addict who put cigarettes out on his own forearm for fun.
Throughout the course of the show, it’s easy to feel conflicted about Joe Exotic. At times you respect him: he came from very little and built an entire zoo for exotic cats in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma. Plus, it must be challenging to grow up openly gay and eccentric in a family that was not tolerant of that. At other times, you loathe him for the big-mouthed, animal abusing tyrant that he is. But above all else, you never, ever, question how incredibly stupid he is.
Regardless of how you feel about him, there’s no denying that the internet is abuzz talking about Joe Exotic. But, one man is particularly haunted by him, and for a different reason than you’d think…
“I can’t believe it. It’s…it’s tough, ya know?”
That’s the sentiment of Australian actor Chris Lilley, famous for his television shows that poke fun at the values society holds dear through the lenses of some of the more ridiculous cast of characters ever put on TV.
“I pride myself on my ability to dream up absurd, borderline farcical characters. Just look at my work: a high school drama teacher who casts himself as the lead in the school play and detects danger by sniffing the school’s children. A real estate agent/heir with who’s defining characteristic is his massive ass. I mean for god’s sake, I spent my mid-30’s dressed as a high school girl hanging out with teenagers and undoubtedly breaking some child protection laws! I was once heralded the Sultan of Satire! But even in my wildest dreams, I dunno if I ever could’ve thought up a second amendment flaunting, homosexual tiger owner who runs for President of the United States. It’s equal parts hacky and brilliant. Maybe I’ve lost my touch…”
It was at this point that Lilley began crying softly into his hands. Slightly confused and overwhelmingly uncomfortable, I comforted him, reassuring him that he hasn’t lost his touch and that no one could have created a character quite like Joe Exotic, that’s what makes the documentary so attention grabbing. Lilley paused, and looked up at me, clearly confused:
“Wait a minute, that was a documentary??”