Podcasts are the best medium for telling wild stories, tales with so many ins, outs, and what have yous that the traditional magazine or documentary film format simply couldn’t do them justice. Case in point: “Joe Exotic.”
Released as the second season of Wondery’s Over My Dead Body podcast, Joe Exotic’s title character, formerly Joe Schreibvogel, is a polyamorous gay tiger breeder with a glorious bleached mullet whose promiscuous breeding habits get him into a blood feud with another big cat enthusiast, Carole Baskin. Joe will tell anyone, even journalists and reality TV cameraman, that he hates Baskin, so much that he fantasizes about “seeing her brains on the wall.” He’s not what you’d call “discreet.”
Baskin, in turn, inherited much of the money she put towards her own bobcat lobbying efforts from her former husband, a millionaire who died under mysterious circumstances the day he told friends he was planning to divorce Carole. That’s right, this season’s Over My Dead Body has a second murder mystery just in the prologue.
Joe Exotic, written and hosted by freelance journalist Robert Moor and soundscape-ified by Wondery’s production team, is a departure from Wondery’s usual husband-wife cases like Dirty John and the previous season of Over My Dead Body. It has an expansive, discursive quality Moor calls “fractal weirdness,” where zooming in on any one aspect of the story only makes it weirder and more fascinating. In fact, Moor says he came into it after reading a headline entitled “Michael Jackson’s alligators burned alive in animal park fire” in which Joe Exotic was merely a footnote.
Moor wrote a 10,000-word magazine version of the story in New York Magazine this week that he says barely scratches the surface. But it was perfect for a podcast. And if you ask Moor, that pathological oddness has a lot to do with the kinds of people who are attracted to wild, dangerous, exotic cats in the first place.
“It has something to do with this love of wildness. Imagine if you went through your life and every time you had a decision, you took the risky, exciting option. Your life would take a pretty strange path as well,” Moor says.
I spoke to him this week by phone.
I started the podcast based on the name, and I didn’t really know what I was listening to at first. How do you pitch this? What’s your elevator pitch for this podcast when people ask what it’s about?