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The Shocking Tragic Story of Rick Kirkham of Tiger King Documentary

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While Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin are the stars of Tiger King, there are other several interesting characters on the show. One of them being Rick Kirkham, whose life is filled with dramatic incidents and multiple twists.

Long before he joined Tiger King, Kirkham was an established journalist

In 1981, he graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. After that, he became a crime reporter in Las Vegas. While accompanying police on various drug busts, Rick Kirkham became addicted to cocaine himself. During that time, he started recording a reality show based on his own struggle with drug addiction and problems with his wife. His show named TV Junkie was shown at Sundance in 2006. Rick Kirkham has also worked as a reporter for Inside Edition. While talking about his addiction on Oprah’s show, he said that he would go on days without sleep. He also admitted to being high while at work. Once he interviewed President Bush while he was high.

Rick Kirkham

After attempting suicide, Rick Kirkham decided to get sober and then he found Joe Exotic

After getting sober, he worked for RealReels as a producer. Shortly after, he met Joe Exotic and thought that he has found the jackpot. After he found out about Joe Exotic and his internet show, Kirkham decided to make a reality show on him and reportedly said:

“I’m going to retire on this guy.”

In order to shoot the reality show, Rick Kirkham spend an entire year with Joe Exotic on his GW Zoo. However, all the footage that he shot was destroyed in the fire which we all have seen on Tiger King. Recently, Rick Kirkham gave an interview to David Spade for his show, Lights Out. During the interview, Kirkham said:

Life at the zoo was a hell of a lot worse than what you saw in the documentary. They didn’t have enough time or footage to be able to show you how bad it was.

According to him, the fire was a set up to destroy the footage because Joe Exotic realized that Kirkham has the rights to the footage.

Life After Tiger King

After the fire, he went back home and saw a  therapist. However, after six months, Rick Kirkham’s own house burned down in the fire. The mysterious fire killed his dog. While talking about it, he said:

“I went in-patient for a week at one place in Dallas, Texas just to get my head back on straight. It really messed with my head.”

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Arrival at BODø, Norway

A post shared by Rick Kirkham (@rickkirkham) on

Currently, he lives in Norway with his wife and works as a freelance reporter for a local newspaper.

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