Joe Exotic may be the star of the Tiger King, but his former animal keeper Kelci "Saff" Saffery is the real hero of the Tiger King reunion. During the special episode, Saffery seemed unbothered by many things, including losing an arm to a tiger, pandemic fan interactions, and being misgendered by the cast of the Netflix series.
Saffery identifies as male, but throughout the viral docuseries is referred to as she/her by Exotic and others. This caused quite a stir, but when Tiger King’s aftershow host, Joel McHale, asked Saffery about the controversy, he took it in stride. “I don’t think it bothered me as much as it bothered everyone else,” Saffery said. “I didn’t really pay it any mind.”
Still, Twitter was happy that Saffery was able to address the issue and glad that McHale asked him about it. Many fans also tweeted that it once again solidified a few things about the big cat lover: he’s “the only one in that documentary that has COMMON SENSE” and “is one hell of a human being.”
One fan, @natiagredo, might have put it best though: “The new #TigerKing episode proves what the internet already knew: that Saff is too good for these people and also for all of us.”
The fact that Saffery was so calm, cool, and collected about everything made his segment of the reunion special nearly joke-free. While McHale joked with other members of the cast about Exotic’s mullet and Jeff Lowe’s nanny, the only time McHale got a laugh out of Saffery was when discussing the horrific attack that resulted in him losing part of his arm. Go figure?
In the documentary, fans see Saff get horribly injured by a 600-pound tiger, but he holds no grudge against the animal who took his arm. In fact, he sounds remorseful for what happened to the tiger after the attack. “We did have to obviously move him so his life did change drastically in that sense,” Saffery said. He even admitted that he still trusts that big cat more than he trusts Exotic. “I never stopped trusting the tiger,” he said.
Saffery was immensely disappointed to find out that Exotic admitted to killing his tigers and believes he should be in jail. “I think justice was served,” he said. “But I still don’t want to see that man die in prison.” That’s because Saffery believes Exotic isn’t all bad, specifically pointing to the yearly free Thanksgiving dinners he hosted at the zoo as a sign.
“I’ve seen him give the jacket off his back for people. And I think that wasn’t highlighted enough,” Saffery said. “Joe did a lot of messed up stuff. That’s a fact, and that’s shown and now the entire world knows it. But he did a lot of good things, too.”