“And this dewlap is to attract the lady iguanas,” said Corbin Maxey, tapping the flap of skin underneath the chin on his five-foot-long green iguana, Scooter, who was calmly hanging out on stage, snapping up strawberries for the camera with a long, pink tongue.
Corbin Maxey, a 21-year-old biology major, is known as The Reptile Guy; and for good reason, too. He’s been all over the United States sharing his knowledge and passion for reptiles, and has been a guest on shows such as the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Today Show, Martha Stewart and a spattering of national and local television and radio shows.
At 12 years old, Maxey gave his first presentation to a group of peers, and fell in love with educating the public about reptiles and responsible pet ownership.
Maxey’s national television career kicked off when he was 14 as a guest on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno for the first time. To date, Maxey has been on the Leno show four times. He said when dealing with high profile people such as Kathie Lee Gifford or Jay Leno, being star struck isn’t an option.
“When I first did Leno, the first guest with me was Pamela Anderson. So you can imagine me like, ‘Oh my gosh, Pamela!’ Now I think it’s surreal, but you realize they’re all people and you have to remain professional,” Maxey said.
Maxey met his manager, television and media strategist Marta Tracy, four years ago when she saw him as a guest on television and recognized his talent.
“I just started thinking that the Jack Hannah’s of the world are not going to be here forever, and who is going to be this next generation of animal experts that would be coming?” Tracy, who is based out of Los Angeles, said. “So I started working with him and I hope someday he will be the next Jack Hannah.”
Though he doesn’t show it on television, nerves play a part in Maxey’s stage presence.
“I get nervous, I get butterflies,” Maxey said with a laugh. “But I think it makes for a better appearance. If I wasn’t nervous, it would be kind of weird, right?”
The Today Show was a recent accomplishment, an undertaking three years in the making. Maxey made the 2,471 mile (37 hours and 11 minutes) drive from Boise to New York for slightly less than four minutes of air time.
“It was surreal almost, like you don’t think you were really on it,” Maxey said with a sigh. “It took so long just to get on there but they were great, and I was able to spread my message to a lot of people that way.”
His message is this: do your research, and be responsible. Know what you’re getting into, and aim to choose adoption first.
But Maxey’s job isn’t all glitz and glamor; a lot of people don’t realize the hard work and manual labor that goes on behind the scenes.
Here are the dirty details: Maxey cleans all of his own cages, and that’s no small load. Combine that with animal enrichment, diet preparation and answering phone calls and emails, and you have one busy college student.
“I always have to be doing something. If I’m not doing something, I would go crazy,” Maxey said. “I don’t have those days where I sit down on the couch and don’t do anything.”
This persistent, jet-setting stance is the type of attitude that has gotten Maxey where he is today.
“Enjoying life and being happy is really important,” said Maxey with a smile. “I always want to love what I’m doing.”
His enthusiasm for all creatures didn’t blossom out of nowhere; growing up in the remote rural area of Robie Creek near Idaho City, human friends weren’t exactly in abundance. To remedy this, Maxey spent his days catching toads, snakes and lizards to play with.
His mom, Jan Maxey, said his zeal for reptiles stems back to his early childhood, when they would read dinosaur books. Dinosaurs eventually evolved into lizards and snakes, and things took off from there.
“I bought him cars for Christmas, things like that you typically think (boys) will want to play with, but he wanted the rubber snakes and lizards,” she said. “That’s the way he’s always been.”
While most 11-year-old boys were watching Power Rangers: Time Force or playing on their GameCubes, Maxey was starting his first business. He knew he had a passion for reptiles, but he didn’t begin rescuing them or educating the public about them until the family moved to the valley.
Maxey rescued his first reptile when he was twelve: an African Ball Python named Reggie, which Maxey still has to this day. Reggie was the little rescue that started it all.
“From then on, when people heard I had a place for reptiles, they just came in,” Maxey said with a shrug. “From the age of thirteen I had over fifty animals. I mean, we’re talking baby alligators, pythons, iguanas, turtles, tarantulas. I even rescued a piranha.”
Currently, Maxey has more than 100 animals in two separate facilities. They all have names, and just like children, choosing a favorite is almost taboo.
“I’m partial to some animals, because of course some of them you get more attached to,” Maxey said. “For instance, snakes aren’t very personable creatures. They could care less about me, I’m just the one who feeds them. But then you have animals that are intelligent and I’m not saying snakes aren’t intelligent, but you have animals that can recognize you or know who you are which is great.”