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‘Tiger King’ creator: Joe Exotic reminds me of Trump

Andy Serwer
Editor in Chief

“'Cause I saw tiger

Now I understand

I saw tiger, and the tiger saw man”

The producer and co-director of Netflix’s smash-hit documentary mini-series, “Tiger King,” says the protagonist of his show, Joe Exotic, a “mulleted, gun-toting polygamist and country western singer” who runs an Oklahoma zoo, reminds him of someone.

“You can see parallels between Joe and our current president,” Eric Goode told me. “They both ran for president. Imagine if Joe became president.”

First, Joe Exotic would have to get out of federal prison.

With tens of millions of Americans minding stay-at-home orders, television and streaming viewership is soaring, according to media analyst Rich Greenfield of LightShed Partners. It’s inevitable then that some show would take the country by storm and capture the zeitgeist. Right now, “Tiger King” — a devilish look at the world of outlandish big cat owners and roadside zoos wrapped around a murder-for-hire plot — is that show. (The murder-for-hire charge is what got Joe Exotic sent to the joint.)

While Netflix doesn’t provide specific numbers, Variety reports that Netflix’s own rankings have “Tiger King” as “the No. 1 most-watched title in the U.S. for March 29 on the service — both overall and among TV shows — and has been in the top 10 for the past week.”

Variety also notes that “Tiger King” “ranks as the most popular current TV show, according to Rotten Tomatoes. It has a 97% critic’s rating and a 96% audience score — putting it at the top of the site’s most-popular TV shows list, ahead of Netflix’s ‘Ozark’ Season 3; USA Network’s ‘Queen of the South’ Season 4; and USA’s ‘The Sinner’ Season 3.”

In this Aug. 28, 2013, file photo, Joseph Maldonado, the zookeeper also known as "Joe Exotic," answers a question during an interview at the zoo he runs in Wynnewood, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Why is “Tiger King” so hot? Goode has a theory.

“We're at a moment in time where we have this captive audience,” he says. “There’s no sports programs on, and people are dying to have a reprieve from this surreal moment that we're in. So obviously, we have a captive audience watching captive cats.”

Wow.

Goode has a pretty interesting back story himself. He ran a number of high-profile nightclubs, restaurants, bars and hotels in New York City including the legendary Area back in the 1980s. He currently owns the Bowery Hotel and the Waverly Inn. Goode is also an artist and co-founded the non-profit, Turtle Conservancy.

Did Goode know he had a smash hit on his hands?

“I did think it would be successful,” he tells me. “[But] I don't think it would have done as well [if not for the coronavirus situation.] We were very fortunate to stumble upon such an unbelievable story. You know, we have this crazy moment in time that’s stranger than fiction frankly, as is the series.”

“I think if we pitch this as a scripted series, people would have thrown this back on our face, because it just is unbelievable. Really, how can you have characters like this?”

I asked Goode what Netflix thinks about the show.

“I think they're happy,” he said. Which leads me to ask what’s next for Eric Goode. Another show?

“I don't know,” he says. “I will say this. My current business — hotels and restaurants — is not the business to be in obviously at the moment. So maybe this will send me in a new direction: making documentaries.”

Millions of Americans probably hope this is the case.

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Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.

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