Tiger King: The Circus We All Needed


The past several weeks have been a super-sized combo meal of global pandemic and general uncertainty. As we’ve all tried to balance homeschooling from scratch, getting a little sunshine, getting enough exercise, watching the evening news without crying, and tolerating an overabundance of Zoom meetings while soaking off our dipped manicures at the kitchen table, one bright light emerged to give us all the levity we desperately craved.

If there is a gold medal for most appropriate timing, Netflix wins.

In case all you cool cats and kittens have added social media to your social distancing checklist, you’ve already been bombarded with the memes and jokes surrounding the Tiger King docuseries. It immerses you into America’s wild world of private big cat ownership – a world with a major pit stop in the small town of Wynnewood, Oklahoma, formerly run by an eccentric dude named Joe Schreibvogel-Maldonado-Passage, or “Joe Exotic.” (Writing out his Christmas cards must’ve been an absolute nightmare.) 

As a lifelong Oklahoman, I freely admit that I was not only impatiently waiting for this to be released, but hesitant to see how our great state was portrayed to the rest of the world. I’ve been to the GW Exotic Animal Park on a few occasions. It’s been several years, but I do remember the people who worked there being quite… memorable. We never ate at the short-lived pizza parlor, and after watching this show, I’m so glad we passed on that portion of the grand tour. Lesson learned. Here are a few other things I learned:

  • $500 bills existed, even though they were formally discontinued in 1969. Anybody have one? 
  • I truly thought Joe Exotic would be the main protagonist in this whole deal, and MAN, was I wrong! There are SO many great characters in this saga: Jet Ski James, Meth Mouth John, Jerk Off Jeff, Bhagavan the Great, Crazy Cat Lady Carole, and the 4th husband who’s really only 82% sure he won’t end up a tiger snicky snack. 
  • Mario Tabraue – Google him. (Hey Netflix, is there a spin-off coming about Mario??)
  • There was more than one country music song from Joe Exotic – The video for Here Kitty Kitty is absolute gold.

Yes, we’ve learned a lot during this quarantine, but here’s another little list of things you should know, from this proud Oklahoman:

  • Yes, we have tornadoes, but I can’t think of another person who rides their 4-wheeler out to the shoulder of a major interstate to watch them.
  • There are a LOT of cool (and weird) things to see and do in our state, and 99.9% of them don’t involve placing your children, limbs, or teeth at risk of immediate disappearance.
  • We do actually have great pizza in this state – here’s a list of some fan faves in the OKC metro!

A huge thank you to JoeExotic.tv’s producer, Rick Kirkham, without whom we would have missed out on SO MUCH GOOD FOOTAGE. Another goes out to Carole Baskin, whose life and likeness provide the timeliest of breaks in the monotony of COVID-19 coverage. And, of course, thank you to Joe who, hopefully, is able to read this from prison. Joe – you have proven to couch potatoes everywhere that if you really want to be a reality TV star, and you try really hard, it’ll happen…eventually.

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Kelli is a native Okie with a larger-than-life personality and an unhealthy dose of sarcasm. She married Bobby in 2011, and they welcomed daughter, Maevyn, in 2013. Maevyn is autistic, and every day is a new adventure in discovering how her unique mind works. Life on their NE Oklahoma City acreage is never dull, and they enjoy RV camping and Sooner football. Kelli is a former law enforcement officer who now works full-time at the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office facilitating programs that keep people safe on our roadways. She also enjoys consulting for Beautycounter, advocating for tougher legislation in the US beauty industry, stifling inappropriate profanity, managing her RBF, looking for the nearest restroom, and trying not to sing Disney songs out loud in public.


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