Rick Kirkham Says Tiger King ‘Was A Hell Of A Lot Worse Than What You Saw’

Lucy Connolly

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Rick Kirkham Says Tiger King 'Was A Hell of A Lot Worse Than What You Saw'Netflix/Lights Out with David Spade/YouTube

Rick Kirkham has spoken out about the time he spent on Joe Exotic’s zoo, saying the reality is ‘a hell of a lot worse’ than what we’ve seen in the Tiger King docuseries.

The journalist and filmmaker, who spent a year living at Exotic’s zoo documenting his every move for a reality show that never got made and appears in the docuseries, claims he recorded damning footage of the zoo owner during his time spent there – footage that will never be seen as it was destroyed in a mysterious fire.

In a tell-all interview with David Spade, Kirkham said there were numerous instances of Exotic killing animals for fun, describing him as ‘evil’ both to animals and humans.

You can watch the full interview below:

Speaking to Spade as part of his Lights Out ‘Lo-Fi Chats’ that are replacing his traditional show at the moment to follow strict social distancing guidelines, Kirkham said the way Exotic is portrayed in the docuseries is not true to form.

Whereas Exotic – real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage – has become somewhat of an eccentric pop culture icon since Tiger King’s release, Kirkham said the reality is much deeper and much darker.

The filmmaker told Spade last week:

I don’t know how all of this has come about over one documentary series, especially one that really didn’t get to show you just how bad it was.

You know, you kind of had a little bit of a heart for the guy, but you really didn’t realise or get to see how evil he really could be. Not only to animals, but to people.

Kirkham went on to say that life at the zoo was ‘a hell of a lot worse than what you saw in the documentary’, adding: ‘They didn’t have enough time or footage to be able to show you how bad it was.’

As touched upon in the docuseries, Kirkham had been filming life at the GW Exotic Animal Park – with a focus on Exotic – before a fire destroyed all of the footage he had captured.

Following the release of Tiger King, viewers suspected that Exotic probably started the fire – something Kirkham alluded to in his interview with Spade, claiming he and the zoo owner had got into a ‘very bad argument’ two days before the fire relating to the fact Kirkham owned the rights to the reality show. ‘I basically owned Joe Exotic,’ he said.

According to the filmmaker, Exotic was ‘not happy’ and ‘ran out of town for a few days’. He allegedly had the locks changed on the studio and two days later, the whole thing caught on fire.

Joe Exotic Tiger KingNetflix

The footage, Kirkham claims, was a lot more damning than the Netflix series and showed ‘Joe actually killing animals for fun’. The filmmaker alleged: ‘He walked up to a tiger he didn’t like and just shot it in the head.’

He then shared another story about a woman who brought her older horse to the zoo and asked Exotic to look after the animal, saying the zoo owner agreed and told her ‘it will be fine’.

Kirkham continued:

As soon as the lady left the park, Joe said, ‘Rick, grab your camera, start rolling’. And I rolled on him, he walks up to the trailer, pulls his [gun] out, shoots the horse in the head dead and laughs… and of course, he fed that horse to the lions.

rick kirkhamNetflix

In fact, Kirkham said the zoo was so bad that it took him six months of therapy to come to terms with his time there, saying: ‘I knew that I had sold out my own soul. It really messed with my head.’

Exotic is currently serving a 22-year sentence for plotting to murder animal rights activist Carole Baskin – his rival – among other animal abuse charges.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is now available to watch on Netflix.

If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.

Topics: Animals, Animal Cruelty, Film and TV, Joe Exotic, Netflix, Tiger King


Lights Out With David Spade/YouTube
  1. Lights Out With David Spade/YouTube

    Rick Kirkham Shares What Was Left Out of “Tiger King” - Lights Out Lo-Fi Chats (April 1, 2020)

Lucy Connolly
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