Joe Exotic is Crashing Zoom Calls to Raise Money for Hospitality Workers
Guest Post by Chris Luecke
With the shelter-in-place mandate being in effect for over a month now, you’ve probably accomplished at least 2 things:
- You’ve binge watched Tiger King on Netflix and know more about exotic cats than you ever imagined.
- You’ve taken part in so many Zoom calls for work, happy hours, and otherwise that your head is starting to spin.
Do the 2 biggest phenomenons of quarantine have anything in common? As a matter of fact, they do! For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been crashing Zoom calls – otherwise known as “Zoombombing” – dressed as the Tiger King himself, Joe Exotic, as a fundraiser for hospitality worker relief. How does this work? Well, like any good San Francisco story, it started with a costume and Craigslist…
After getting invited to my friend’s Tiger King-themed Zoom party to discuss the ins-and-outs of the show and debate whether or not Carole Baskin killed her husband (side-note: she definitely did), I looked around my existing wardrobe and realized I had all the essential pieces of a Joe Exotic outfit.
Florescent pink shirt? Check. Cowboy hat? Check. Handlebar mustache? No, but a black marker can fix that!
I put together that costume as fast as I could, jumped on my friend’s Zoom call with my guitar in-hand, put on my best Oklahoman accent, and busted into the chorus of Joe Exotic’s song “I Saw a Tiger.” If it was ever possible to “bring down the house” on a Zoom call, this was it.Joe Exotic Zoombombing in action
It wasn’t long after that I posted this shtick to Craigslist:
“For $100, I will commandeer your Zoom call for approximately 5 minutes in character as Joe Exotic and turn your next mundane meeting into something truly memorable.”
I didn’t necessarily expect it to go anywhere, but not long after, I was getting calls from law firms and software companies to make cameo appearances at the start of their virtual team meetings. Ad agencies, 40th birthday parties, even catholic high schools started reaching out. No group was off limits!
As fun as it to get paid to surprise a virtual room full of people dressed as a flamboyant tiger-loving cowboy, this has all been an effort to raise money for the fine people in the hospitality industry. In addition to playing Joe Exotic on Zoom calls, I’m the host of an international craft beer podcast and started my career in the beer and hospitality industries. The folks that keep this industry moving have been some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I’d love it if you joined me in supporting them through this cause.
So, if you’d like to bring Joe Exotic on to your next Zoom call – providing a morale boost for your crew while donating to a good cause – you can do so via the new GoFundMe campaign. To date we’ve raised over $1,000 via Craigslist for both The James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund and the Craft Brewery Employee Assistance Relief Campaign. Now it’s time to kick it up a notch and keep the fundraising efforts strong before the joke stops being funny (likely in mid-May, give or take a few days)!
Thank you so much for your generosity. Hope to see all of you cool cats and kittens on Zoom!