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|Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog|
Robert Smigel performing Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog
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|Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog|
Robert Smigel performing Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog
Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog is a character puppet puppeteered and voiced by Robert Smigel, best known for mocking celebrities. Triumph was identified in the early appearances as a Yugoslavian Mountain Hound, hence his distinct Eastern European accent (although Triumph himself insists it is a regular "dog accent"). As his name indicates, Triumph's comedic style is almost exclusively insult comedy. Triumph often puffs a cigar, which usually falls out of his mouth when he starts talking. He debuted in 1997 on NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien and also appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien from time to time, as well as the short lived TV Funhouse, and TBS's Conan.
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Triumph's debut was in a comedy skit about unusually talented dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, from which he was eventually banned (though his third visit to the show was by invitation). In addition to other dog puppets who played banjos and performed magic, Triumph appeared in his trademark persona of an obnoxious and ribald insult comic in the vein of Don Rickles. The character rapidly grew in popularity, and became a recurring fixture on the show, often mocking the show's celebrity guests and leaving the studio to harass the general public in pre-taped remote segments.
Some of Triumph's best known skits involved him visiting the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, where he would often be found "humping" (attempting to mate with), and occasionally being "humped" by other dogs. Smigel and Triumph have been ejected from several events for Triumph's antics, including Westminster (three times), the Honolulu line for auditions for American Idol, and the 2004 Democratic National Convention (while shooting an aborted movie project).
In one memorable segment, Triumph interviewed Star Wars fans waiting in line for the theatrical premiere of Attack of the Clones. In that segment, Triumph met Blackwolf the Dragonmaster (who calls himself "New York's unofficial wizard"). Originally visiting the lineup to "pay his respect" to the Star Wars fans, Blackwolf was spotted by Triumph and cited as being "a geek from another dimension". Approaching Blackwolf, Triumph quickly associated him as being part of the Lord of the Rings fan base (based on Blackwolf's fantasy costume) and then asked, "Have you ever talked to a woman without having to give your credit card number?" Triumph then pitted a Star Wars fan (in full Jedi costume) in a mock duel against Blackwolf and stated that the winner would be declared the "über-dork". Another moment involved a pregnant Star Wars fan who was also waiting in line. When told of the baby's expected due date, Triumph responded, "that's the last time he (the baby) will see female genitalia." Later, while talking to a fan dressed in full Darth Vader regalia, Triumph directs his attention to the buttons on his chest and remarked, "Which one of these calls your parents to pick you up?" Eventually irritated by the Star Wars cosplay activity, Triumph concludes his day at the Star Wars lineup by summoning "Angry" Spock (another Late Night with Conan O'Brien character). Dressed as the Vulcan character Spock (from the Star Trek franchise) and possessing a quiet demeanor, "Angry Spock" promptly and silently proceeds down the lineup and nonchalantly gives everyone the finger. The segment was shown as part of a series of Late Night with Conan O'Brien Best-Ofs during the final two weeks of that show's run.
Triumph went on to insult the entire state of New Jersey when he traveled to the Meadowlands to interview Bon Jovi on their return to their home state (according to Triumph: "much like poop, returning up into the butthole.") He proceeded to tear down everything the band has done, knocking their age, lack of media ("People have come from as far away as exit 12!"), Jon Bon Jovi's foray into acting ("You're doing a vampire movie, yes? That's good. Finally a role that requires you to suck!") and even humped Heather Locklear's arm. (She was married to Bon Jovi lead guitarist Richie Sambora at the time). Triumph displayed a mock playlist on the stage consisting of song titles like Crap, Poop, Loads of crap (ballad version) and others saying "They haven't closed with Turd since 1989! Awesome!" He visited the "real heterosexuals" (the road crew) and produced his own bong made from a doggy squeaky toy and an Alpo can. He, naturally, insulted every drunk fan he could find knocking the 1980s dress and hair along with the blue collar and unemployment jokes. For his finale, he got to sing You Give Love a Bad Name with the band and his own words. Humped a shar pei/ pulled out too late/ now that bitch has a litter of eight/ they eat all the Alpo, right off my plate/ why the hell didn't I just masturbate?! Oh, I'm a loaded gun!/ Here comes Bon Jovi, the pooping's begun!/ Look at you guys, have you no shame?/ You give poop, a bad name! Crawl back in the butt from whence you came!/ You give poop, a bad name!
Triumph also had several memorable segments filmed during the 2004 Presidential Campaign. During that year's Democratic National Convention in Boston, which Triumph was eventually thrown out of, he and Michael Moore attempted to crash Bill O'Reilly's set. O'Reilly, getting makeup at the time, shouted, "If I have to come out there, Insult Dog, you're gonna be talking a lot higher than you are now." Later in the campaign, after the third presidential debate, Triumph went on a memorable tour of 'Spin Alley', the traditional post-debate press briefing in which high-profile members of both parties "in the tradition of Joseph Goebbels, Baghdad Bob, and Carson Daly, ladle out poop stew", according to Triumph. During this segment Triumph insulted many famous political strategists, including Karl Rove ("You're Bush's brains, Karl. I was expecting a much smaller man"), Paul Begala ("This guy's head was so far up Clinton's butt, they called him The Colonoscope"), and Joe Lockhart ("Can you spin a woman into thinking you don't look gross in the shower?") In an exchange with conservative commentator Ralph Reed, Triumph tried to ask a question about gay marriage, only to be rebuffed as Reed said, "I don't take questions from dogs." Triumph responded: "Oh, you'll take it, bitch!"
In addition to regular appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Triumph has appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards, including an exchange with Jennifer Lopez in which he asks Lopez for permission to sniff her butt because "for a dog, it's like climbing Mount Everest." MTV later removed the segment from rebroadcast airings. She recalled how her first reaction to the dog was "Get the f*** out of my face!" The following year, Triumph interviewed Moby and then approached an angry Eminem, prompting MTV to cut away from the segment. Eminem later referred to and impersonated Triumph on the track "Ass Like That" from his 2004 album Encore, and subsequently appeared in the video, with Eminem playing Triumph.
In February 2004, there was a skit where Triumph hurled insults at French Canadians in Quebec during Late Night's special week of shows taped in Toronto. He poked fun at Quebec nationalism, at one point telling a portly French-Canadian that before separating from Canada he should "try separating [himself] from donuts first." Triumph also told non-English speakers that he could smell their crotch (in English). When one person walked away from the camera (with a string of curses), Triumph replied, "You are in North America, learn the language!" He also posted signs over existing street signs with such names as "Celinedionsucks Street" and "Annemurraysabitch Avenue."
In June 2005, Triumph went to the Santa Maria courthouse, where fans were awaiting the Michael Jackson verdict. "Until the trial is over," reported Triumph, "none of us can really know if Michael is innocent or guilty. But there is one thing we do know... he's guilty!" Triumph also made fun of several foreigners supporting Jackson, including a Bulgarian man who was wearing a bright lime-green shirt. In front of the man there was a sign, stating "the only victim is Michael," to which Triumph replied with, "he's not the only fashion victim, I can see that!", and, "Tainted Love, 'bee bee boop', tainted love," implying the man was wearing a 1980s wardrobe. He suggested to a female fan that if she really wanted to get Michael's attention she should "wear a nice dress, something low cut, maybe with a six year-old boy on your shoulder." Upon seeing a Michael Jackson impersonator sing and do the moonwalk, Triumph asked him if he could "do Michael masturbating to Home Alone." Also, when one woman mentioned that Michael was running late and came to court in his pajamas, Triumph gasped, "He CAME in his pajamas?"
On October 15, 2006, Triumph was the closing act for "Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Benefit for Autism Education" at the Beacon Theater in New York. The show, aired on Comedy Central, was hosted by Jon Stewart and featured performances by Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Borat Sagdiyev and many other comics. Triumph sang "Come Back" with a group of singers introduced as Ladysmith Black Mambazo. "Come Back" was a plaintive chant bemoaning the loss of certain celebrities from the public eye. Sample lyrics:
Come back Kathie Lee/I miss your sweatshops so cruel/And your Christmas shows were worse/than finding blood in my stool
Dell Dude career/Please be reborn/You were big for a year/then it was back to gay porn
Triumph also appeared as part of the 2010 Night of Too Many Stars, which was recorded on October 2 and aired on Comedy Central October 21. Triumph did a routine where he claimed to represent celebrity charities that couldn't be a part of the event. Triumph-autographed cigars were part of the subsequent online celebrity auction.
In June 2007, Triumph visited the Tony Awards Red Carpet, or as he described it, "A Who's Who of Who Cares." Given that the already ratings-challenged Tonys were up against the final episode of The Sopranos, Triumph tried to help out by providing "more popular people" to sneak into the show, including Abe Vigoda, Arena Football League player Aaron Garcia, and "The Tuberculosis Guy". Finally, Triumph suggested the Tonys incorporate fans more the way MTV awards show do. He offered two matinee ladies (elderly fans who see Broadway matinees) who were willing to make out "with tongue."
In November 2005, Triumph hosted "Poopapalooza" at the Flamingo Showroom in Las Vegas as the closing act of the initial "The Comedy Festival". Triumph pooped on various Las Vegas performers, including Cirque Du Soleil-style gymnasts, "The Neon Man", and the Michael Jackson impersonator he'd met at the trial. There were also cameos by Jon Stewart, Penn and Teller, Lance Burton and Gilbert Gottfried.
Triumph also made an appearance on Conan's show on a recent Christmas-themed skit ("The Lighting of the Vigoda") where he sang "I Saw Mommy Humping Santa Claus."
Triumph gave his New Year's resolutions and showed a montage of his work over 2005 on Conan's show.
In 2006 Triumph made an appearance on Conan celebrating the Chinese New Year being "The Year of the Dog," stating "It's my year!" and helping himself to various merchandise in New York City's Chinatown. He visited a butcher shop and vomited immediately upon tasting a Chinese delicacy. He also made an acupuncturist wear S & M gear.
In March 2006 G4 aired a special, The Best of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, consisting of clips from Triumph's Best of DVD. Triumph filmed short segments with Blackwolf the Dragonmaster for the special.
On November 3, 2006, Conan presented what appeared to be a clip of Triumph on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Triumph announced he'd been in Malawi and had adopted a puppy there. He thanked the female audience for their applause and told them they were all going to get vibrators with Oprah's face on them.
On November 14, 2006, Triumph was named an honorary member of the Las Vegas police department's K-9 dog unit. The next night he performed at the Celine Dion Theater, hosting "Poopapalooza 2" with Harland Williams, Jim Gaffigan and Frank Caliendo.
In September 2007, Triumph was interviewed by Dr. Phil (a mock interview on Late Night) to discuss Triumph's lawsuit against Trouble Helmsley claiming that Trouble (Leona Helmsley's dog that inherited $12 million when Helmsley died) is the mother of his child. Triumph asserted that he and Trouble were friends for years, and had pictures to prove it: Triumph humping Trouble on the lawn of the Helmsley estate and in the lobby of the Helmsley Palace, and Triumph getting a hummer from Trouble at Tony Bennett's 80th birthday party. Triumph also brought out their alleged oldest child, Troubleina, and the youngest, named Leona "after the dried-up wrinkly old bitch". (The disposition of this lawsuit is not known.)
Shortly after the resolution of the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike, Triumph appeared at the WGA East Awards and lampooned many of the strike's key figures, as well as the controversy surrounding the decision of late night hosts (such as O'Brien and Jay Leno) to return to the air in violation of Guild rules:
How about our negotiating committee? Where's their award? It couldn’t have been easy for them, representing this freak show. Patric Verrone, John Bowman—you know what people don’t know about these people? That they’re great comedy writers. They are tremendous comedy writers. They’ve written hilarious material like Futurama and In Living Color and—the Writers Guild strike rules! The strike rules, ha, prohibit all the writing, ho ho, by any guild member that would be performed on-air by that member, ah ha ha ha, including monologues! Oh ho ho! I can’t take it! It’s too funny! Oh ho ho ho! The strike rules! By the way, I want to say, you know, Jay Leno wasn’t the only one to make a mockery of these rules. All the talk show hosts did, except my man, Conan O'Brien! Conan O'Brien went out there with no material and sucked harder than ever before!
In July 2008 Triumph attended the San Diego Comicon, not only wandering the floor and speaking to many of the attendees, but also had a ten minute skit at the start of the TV Funhouse presentation where, amongst the usual nerd-related gags, he implored everyone present to get to their feet and attempt a jumping jack.
On June 19, 2009, Triumph made his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, serving as correspondent for the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee. He referred to festival-goers as dirty hippies on drugs. At the festival, he found a stark-naked Max Weinberg in a goer's tent.
Triumph appears in a prerecorded bit on O'Brien's 2010 Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour mocking the town Conan is performing in, even though NBC supposedly retained Triumph's rights in the settlement that allowed O'Brien to leave NBC. For comedic effect, information about the town is dubbed over. Triumph also gives obviously incorrect facts about the state, for example saying the state animal of Oregon is Chip Kelly.
In October 2011, Triumph appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, when Conan and Jimmy found him behind a pillow on the couch—O'Brien proclaimed he'd been there since the end of his Late Night show in 2009. He appeared almost a month later on the November 3 episode of Conan, insulting protestors at the Occupy Wall Street movement. The segment aired on the fourth and final show O'Brien taped at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.
In October 2012, Triumph appeared on Conan again as a correspondent for the final presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida between the current US president, Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
In November 2003, in the early days of the 2004 U.S. presidential primary campaign, Triumph was the "lead guest" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno the same night that Democratic candidate John Kerry also appeared on the show. Kerry made a dramatic entry, riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle onto the stage; but Triumph, in characteristic style, poked fun at him with a series of scathingly rude remarks, to Kerry's evident discomfiture. (Among his jibes: "The poop I made in the dressing room had more heat than John Kerry!")
In July and August 2004, Triumph followed up with visits to both major parties' national conventions. At one point, he was barred entry to the Democratic convention, held in Boston. He did gain entry to the Republican convention in New York, and even debated actor Ron Silver during the wrap-up on MSNBC.
In September 2008, Triumph traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota to attend that year's Republican National Convention, where he filed a series of reports as he joked around with delegates inside the hall and protesters in the streets outside the convention. He also conducted a 6½-minute interview (at a hotel across the street) with independent candidate Ralph Nader.
In October 2008, Triumph made an appearance at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY during the final presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama. He interviewed and made jokes with political party supporters and with other members of the press, including the host of Fox News Channel's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, making a surprise appearance on her show with Mr. Met, the McCain-supporting mascot of the New York Mets.
Triumph's best-known catchphrase is "... for me to poop on!", usually spoken to negate a compliment that precedes it, which normally appears at the end of a long diatribe or roast. An example would be, "But seriously, you've been a great audience ... for me to poop on!"
Another of Triumph's catchphrases is "I keed, I keed!", usually said at the end of a diatribe to imply that the puppet was only "kidding" when he made the insults. This is usually followed immediately by yet another string of insults. "I Keed" is also the title of a rap song written by Smigel in which the puppet lambastes celebrities, in a style similar to that of Eminem. The song appears on Triumph's solo album, Come Poop with Me.
At times, Triumph will depart from his usual shtick and heap (possibly sarcastic) praise on a particular celebrity; the highest honor Triumph bestows on those he thinks deserving is asking to sniff that person or character's butt. The very short list of people Triumph has deemed worthy of this honor includes Jennifer Lopez and Don Rickles.
In 1999, Pets.com filed a lawsuit against Late Night and Robert Smigel claiming that Triumph constituted a trademark violation because of possible confusion with their sock puppet dog mascot (which appeared two years after the first appearance of Triumph); however, the bankruptcy and closing of the company during the dot-com bust of 2000 ended the lawsuit. Triumph responded in his typical fashion in a skit where he humped the "pets.com" dog in a restroom.
The album was released by Warner Bros. Records, which featured adult comedy and songs, plus a bonus DVD of live performances by Triumph. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. Appearing with Triumph on the album and the DVD were singer-actor Jack Black, comic actor Adam Sandler, Saturday Night Live cast members Maya Rudolph and Horatio Sanz; "Blackwolf the Dragonmaster"—a real-life fantasy/gaming fan who had once been targeted by Triumph during an infamous encounter with Star Wars fans; and Conan O'Brien.
On August 10, 2004, NBC released a DVD, Late Night With Conan O'Brien: The Best of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog featuring select Triumph appearances from Late Night.
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