[Spoilers ahead for Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem And Madness, also real life.]
As Stephen Colbert—all dressed up to broadcast from his den—rightly explained on Thursday’s Late Show, there’s only one thing people are talking about during this time of unprecedented social upheaval, breathtaking governmental malfeasance, and literally breath-taking worldwide viral catastrophe, and that’s a streaming series about weirdos and their big cat fetish. Yes, it’s Netflix’s Tiger King, the TV sensation sweeping the nation with its jagged tale of outsized personalities taking questionable care of captive, appropriately outsized wild animals when they’re not running sex cults, marrying multiple people, shooting unholy amounts of guns, and occasionally (or allegedly, according to some) plotting to murder each other. And if the Netflix docu-series’ instantly meme-spawning popularity among the ranks of a nation of homebound, anxious, and desperate-for-diversion viewers might put an asterisk next to its current popularity as the thing everyone has to watch, like right now!, its roster of real-life eccentrics, twisted, boneheaded plots, and genuinely majestic big kitties carries enough spectacle to hold public attention for the time being.
Luckily for such rapt viewers, Colbert scored an exclusive interview with the real Tiger King himself, Joe Exotic (or Joseph Allen Schreibvogel, if you want to be uptight), straight from “Grady County Jail, where he is “currently serving 22 years of court-ordered social distancing.” And for those of you out there who question just how or why Mr. Exotic would appear on a late-night show to talk about the details of his supposed murder-for-hire of a rival big cat enthusiast, and whether Colbert’s guest looked suspiciously throughout like he was about to hype up the Quibi return of Reno 911, well, clearly your mind has been warped by all your true crime, fact vs. fiction entertainment choices.
With his gold-rimmed sunglasses still perched upon his glorious mane, Exotic (fine, it’s Tom Lennon) gabbled out a greeting in his inimitable (fine, it’s imitable) auctioneer’s drawl to “Mister Big Stevie-to-the-Ice-Cold-beer,” before promising a world premiere of his new, behind-bars country smash, “A Liger Ate My Shoes.” Assenting first to discuss his current legal predicament (for which the actual Joe Exotic is seeking redress in the form of a Donald Trump pardon, naturally), this Exotic confessed that things were akin to “a poop parade on prune avenue.” Expanding on that, Exotic explained that he hasn’t even been able to see how he comes off in Tiger King, since a white supremacist prison gang has commandeered the one TV to binge The Masked Singer. (They do like masks.) That said, Exotic did complain that, from what he’s gleaned, “some of it paints me to look like a chicken-fried freakzoid who is crazier than Downtown Encyclopedia Brown.” (Honestly, Exotic seems about the sixth-craziest person in the creepy, woman-hating bunch.) Signing off, Exotic did favor Colbert with a little taste of his latest, cat-lovin’ country classic. It’s no “I Saw A Tiger,” but it’s fine.