“Tiger King” star Carole Baskin made an unexpected return to the small screen when she was tricked by two YouTube pranksters pretending to be late-night host Jimmy Fallon.
Josh Pieters and Archie Manners got Baskin, 58, to give a rare interview by pretending she was making a Zoom appearance on “The Tonight Show” — using audio of Fallon asking random questions from previous interviews.
Believing she could not see the host because of technical difficulties, she then revealed how she has been forced to let go of half her staff — and fears the coronavirus may forever end tours at her Florida big-cat sanctuary.
The British tricksters joked about “Baskin in the glory” of their catch in the video seen almost 1.4 million times by Monday morning — with their prey luckily also seeing the funny side.
“I was suspicious as we were doing it because the questions appeared taped. But had no idea it would turn out to be such a fun prank,” Baskin told CNN in a statement.
“It gave us a very welcome good laugh. I appreciate their cleverness and that they created their video in a way that I don’t feel was in any way mean spirited.”
Baskin unexpectedly hit the spotlight with “Tiger King,” the smash-hit Netflix docu-series following fellow big-cat park owner Joe “Exotic” Maldonado-Passage, who is serving 22 years for plotting to kill her.
She later said she felt betrayed by the show, assuming it was covering the plight of big cats rather than their personal dramas — including Joe’s wild claims that she fed her ex-husband to her tigers.
In their video, Pieters and Manners showed how they pretended to be a production company lining up guests for the popular late-night chat show, admitting she was the “longest of long-shots.”
They finally got her to agree to an interview only by promising that “Jimmy” would not ask about the Netflix series that made her famous.
They marveled at how their “worldwide exclusive” was landed after just “tens of emails and one drunken phone call.”
They were so shocked when she finally sat for the Zoom interview that they had to pretend their long, shocked pause was a technical problem.
“I’m doing great — my daughter, Jamie, suggested I do this interview with you, so she says hi,” Baskin said, smiling as she assumed she was speaking to Fallon.
“My daughter and I still come into the sanctuary every day because we have to take care of all the big cats here,” she said as the pair played random questions from previous episodes of Fallon’s show.
“Unfortunately, due to the loss of tourism revenue we had to let go of about half of our staff and thankfully all of our animal care is done by volunteers.
“So the animals are still getting their daily care but it means all of us are having to work double-time to make sure that happens.”
While she said she has been surviving the lockdown, she also admitted it may forever destroy key parts of her business.
“After COVID-19, I just don’t know if we’re ever going to be able to do tours again,” she said.
The pranksters ended by giving Baskin the opportunity to discuss the Big Cat Safety Act, legislation she’s been advocating for to end the abuse of big cats by their private owners.
“Yes, Carole didn’t plug her campaign on Fallon, but she did it on our YouTube channel — not quite the same thing, but hopefully she won’t be too angry,” the pair ended the video — with a big-cat roar hinting at the wild rumors over her ex-husband’s death.
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