“I can almost promise you some of you will be urinated on,” says Joe Exotic, the feline-fanatical focal point of Netflix’s Tiger King.
For context, the Southern-fried PT Barnum of jungle cats says this by way of warning his zoo audience just how close they’re going to get to the many lions and tigers he has on hand. Then he drops the kicker: “If that happens, we have t-shirts in the gift shop that says, ‘I got peed on by a tiger.’”
At the mention of this shirt—less than 15 minutes into the compulsively watchable docuseries—leagues of bleeding-edge fashionistas likely reach for their phones to find out whether such a shirt is actually available. (I mean, there’s this?) No telling how long a shelf-life such acid-washed ironywear will have, but it’s an ideal shirt for right now, with Tiger King quickly becoming one of the most talked-about offerings from Netflix in some time and dropping right in the middle of everyone’s quarantine.
Amazingly, though, the bonkers, seven-part documentary is so consistently quotable that any number of lines spoken during it might make even better fodder for DIY t-shirts.
Tiger King tells the tale of Joe Exotic, the exact average between a Danny McBride character and a Christopher Guest character. When we meet Joe, he’s a showboating Oklahoma zookeeper with a rebellious streak who is destined to go to prison for the attempted murder of his nemesis, an animal activist named Carole Baskin. The story of how Joe ends up in prison is populated by a de facto Halloween costume factory of a cast, and is filled by so many outlandish, heartbreaking, and hilarious WTF moments, it would be a crime to reveal too many of them here.
The series started its life as a Wondery podcast, before directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin turned the story into a seven-part documentary for Netflix. Kate McKinnon has signed on to play Carole Baskin in a separate series for Universal, with nobody attached to play Joe Exotic or any of the other juicy roles yet. (Although the internet is now ablaze with speculation on who should play Joe, with some actors even advocating for themselves.)
Before the movie version arrives, though, enjoy the raw carnage of the documentary, whose memorable characters are destined to be quoted in perpetuity.
Here are 17 instantly iconic lines from just the first episode that might as well be shirts already.
- “I’ve been on the cover of Hollywood Magazine twice.” —Joe Exotic, incarcerated zookeeper
- “He’s a completely insane, gay, gun-toting, drug-addict fanatic.” —Dr. Bhagavan Antle, prominent animal trainer
- “I’d shoot you before I shot my cat.” —Joe Exotic
- “I’ve done a lot of shit in my life, but I never experienced anything like Joe Exotic.” —Rick Kirkham, journalist
- “I grew up a professional cowboy in a family of professional cowboys.” —Dr. Bhagavan Antle
- “I saw a tiger, and the tiger saw a man.” —Joe Exotic
- “You can see how they go from being so sweet to tearing your face off, just like that, and it’s amazing to have that range.” —Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue
- “Does it feel good to stand on my stage with 500-pound tigers and everybody envy you? Absolutely.” —Joe Exotic
- “They want the lion’s share but they don’t want to share the lions.” —Dr. Bhagavan Antle
- “If somebody thinks they’re gonna come in here and take my animals away, it’s gonna be a small Waco.” —Joe Exotic
- “What is a snow leopard doing in the back of this guy’s hot van?” —Rick Kirkham
- “That lady profits over $1.5m, suckin’ on your heartstrings about shit on the internet that ain’t even true.” —Joe Exotic
- “Most of us are not ruthless. People who love animals are rarely ruthless.” —Dr. Bhagavan Antle
- “Before you bring me down, it is my belief that you will stop breathing.” —Joe Exotic
- “I don’t watch news on television, unless there’s a cat involved.” —Carole Baskin
- “This is my little town. I’m the mayor, the prosecutor, the cop, and executioner.” —Joe Exotic
- “I am so well-known as Big Cat Guy around the world, that people who are against people having relationships with animals, period, want to destroy me because I am out there in the forefront, so known of being this guy who is in love with big cats and has them love him back.” —Dr. Bhagavan Antle