Tiger King: Joel McHale Shocked by Backlash Over Joe Exotic's Imprisonment

Netflix's recent documentary series, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, has been nothing short of a cultural phenomenon since it was released on the streaming service earlier this year. The twisted story of imprisoned animal abuser Joe Exotic has taken the world by storm, and amassed a fan base larger than that of just about any scripted series on TV. At the end of the series, Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison for an attempted murder-for-hire plot, as well as several counts of animal abuse and trade, counting 19 felonies in all. It seems like the punishment fits the crime(s) for Joe Exotic, but there are a ton of viewers that surprisingly feel differently about the issue.

Fans of Tiger King have been calling for Exotic to be set free after seeing the series in its entirety, saying that the case wasn't fair or believing the man's innocent pleas. It's strange to see such a rally behind someone who has done so much wrong, most of it caught on tape for all to see. On the aftershow special, The Tiger King and I, host Joel McHale asked the other subjects from the series if they believed Joe Exotic should be in jail, a question that has caused him to receive a surprising amount of backlash online.

"People gave me such shit for asking if Joe Exotic should be in jail, and I was like, that doesn't seem like a hard-hitting geyser question," McHale said on a recent episode of Conan. "They were like, 'How dare you.' and I was like, '19 felonies?'"

McHale went on to say he found all of the backlash strange because people are viewing the subjects of Tiger King as TV characters "and not necessarily human beings." The actor and host shared a similar sentiment when speaking with ComicBook.com last week, saying that even the longest-tenured employees of Joe Exotic's zoo felt that he should be locked up.


"He had 19 felonies against him and he's probably the happiest person in jail ever. He's now more famous than he could have ever dreamt, like an Obi Wan Kenobi or something," McHale said. "The guy was convicted of 19 felonies and there was a lot of animal abuse that was pretty clear from everybody I talked to. Even Saff who said, 'No, I had a great time with Joe and he was good to me.' Then I was like, 'Should he be in jail?' And he was like, 'Absolutely.'"

Perhaps the Netflix series simply painted Joe Exotic in a positive light, because everyone that knows him away from the camera is confident that the court got things right.

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