Insult Comic Dog Triumph Poised for 2012 Election

He’s back, and better than ever.

Yes, that Dog.

Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, who made his first public appearance in 1997 on NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and began insulting every self-righteous celebrity and ridiculous non-celebrity among us, seems to be back just in time for the 2012 election.

Robert Smigel performing his puppet character Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog in “Spin-Alley,” the backstage hallway after the 2004 Presidential debates.

For those non-insomniacs unfamiliar with the landscape of late-night talk shows, once you see and hear this dog, you won’t forget him. In fact,  he’s a dog puppet of a Yugoslavian Mountain hound, created by comedian Robert Smigel, who is still the hand behind him. But don’t tell him that – you never know what he’ll tell you.

Yes, the canine’s scatological humor that is his signature line (“For me to poop on!”), his quick comeback in case he’s about to get smacked (“I kid, I kid…”) and his inappropriate sexual observations might indeed be puerile. Behind his bark, however, is a populist and honest sensibility that many people might be thinking but wouldn’t dare express.

Triumph with Conan O’Brien.

That a dog puppet with a thick Eastern European accent could be so conversant on contemporary media, politics, and pop culture may seem, initially, to be ridiculous. The moment that Triumph begins confronting egocentric performers, slick political operatives, biased journalists, childish and hypocritical adults, no dog puppet ever made more sense.

His targets all share one crime – taking themselves too seriously and justifying their right to do so in public.

Triumph went undercover at an over-the-top Beverly Hills dog spa.

Triumph’s first appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on February 13, 1997 had him focusing on the alleged talents of purebred dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, from which he was eventually banned.

Outside the 2005 Michael Jackson trial, he eviscerated the defensive, obsessive adult fans– horrifying them by daring to crack jokes at the expense of their idol.

He walked along the line of grown adult fans waiting to buy the coveted first tickets of the last Star Wars movie, calling out those living in the deepest of fantasies in broad daylight. “Have you ever talked to a woman,” he asked one grown man decked out in a costume, “without having to give your credit card number?”

The vulgar little dog having a beer.

From there he went on to release a 2003 Grammy-nominated adult comedy album, made cameo in the 2002 It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie TV-movie (where he insulted Kermit the Frog), got sued by, and was made an honorary member of the Las Vegas police department‘s K-9 dog unit.

At the MTV Movie Awards cracking up Lindsay Lohan but ticking off Eminem.

The year 2006 was a pinnacle in Triumph’s career. He made guest appearances on all variety of televised entertainment, insulting one and all. On Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Benefit,  Triumph howled out an original song which sarcastically beckoned back minor but ubiquitous celebrities, one lyric running, “Come back Kathie Lee, I miss your sweatshops so cruel! And your Christmas shows were worse, than finding blood in my stool!”

Triumph confronted by Eminmen the 2002 MTV Music Video Awards.

Covering the Tony Awards a year later, Triumph called it “A Who’s Who of Who Cares.” At the MTV Movie Awards, he seriously enraged white rapper Eminem and caused Jennifer Lopez to react by yelling at him, “Get the f*** out of my face!”

Triumph saved his sharpest and most sustained rebuke, however, for a man many felt had made a career by dishing out unnecessarily-harsh insults to young artists just beginning to test their talents, Simon Cowell, an American Idol judge.

“Who the hell do you think you are?!” the dog puppet asked an uncomfortable Cowell. ” I don’t understand the logic….You go on and tell people they don’t have any talent?! That’s like poop telling vomit it stinks!”  Here is a clip:


In 2009, NBC moved Conan O’Brien from his Late Night show to become host of the popular Tonight Show. Then the previous guest host, Jay Leno, decided to return to the Tonight Show. O’Brien was out of work – and so too was “Team Coco” player Triumph, considered to be a trademark of NBC, part of the network’s legal intellectual property.

At  Night of Too Many Stars.

Those rights were released late last year, according to some reports. Seven months ago, on November 3, 2011, Triumph made his triumphant return as an O’Brien sidekick on his new show Conan, airing on the TBS network.

That premier segment had Triumph conducting interviews for a report on the Occupy Wall Street movement, in New York, and calling out hypocrisies he suspected among the anti-corporate protestors. He was like a cranky old uncle with razor-sharp timing and dead-on call-outs. Here’s that very funny segment:

To see more of Triumph’s recent glories, go to:

Now, with President Obama struggling to make the case for his economic recovery measures as he campaigns for re-election and Republican candidate Mitt Romney struggling to prove he’s not indifferent to those hit hardest by the economic downturn, Triumph is poised to take on both political parties as the 2012 election accelerates.

John Kerry on Tonight Show before being insulted by Triumph.

Triumph has a proven track record during those quadrennial moving circuses known as the national presidential campaigns, beginning with his presence at both the Republican and Democratic conventions in 2004. At both events, he assaulted the party faithful in the arena hallways.

His being thrown out of the National Democratic Convention that year may have been due to his live appearance on The Tonight Show months earlier, when he directly insulted his highly un-amused fellow guest, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. “The poop I made in the dressing room,” the dog puppet snapped, “has more heat than John Kerry!”


Triumph confronting Karl Rove (lower left).

During the third 2004 presidential debate, Triumph slipped into “‘Spin Alley,” the backstage press briefing area.

There, famous journalists interviewed partisan political commentators who interpreted their candidates’ debate performances, as Triumph put it, “in the tradition of Joseph Goebbels [to]…ladle out poop stew.”

Triumph managed to personally insult some of the most celebrated of Republicans and Democrats. He confronted Presidential Adviser Karl Rove, remarking, “You’re Bush’s brains, Karl? I was expecting a much smaller man.” Before Democratic strategist Paul Begala could laugh too hard, Triumph described him by saying, “This guy’s head was so far up Clinton’s butt, they called him The Colonoscope,” with equal outrageousness.

With Ralph Reed.

The Religious Right leader Ralph Reed reacted to Triumph with the same precise contempt as had Eminem. When Triumph yelled out a question to him about gay marriage, Ralph Reed snapped at the puppet, “I don’t take questions from dogs.”  As-ever nimble on his hind legs, Triumph shot back, “Oh, you’ll take it, bitch!”

Confronting Hawaii’s Republican Governor.

Triumph listened politely as Hawaii’s Republican Governor Linda Lingle pontificated on the then-President’s debate performance, “Bush was better tonight. I liked the strategy of replacing stuttering with stammering.”

“Thank you for your time,” the dog puppet replied, “Have a safe trip back to Stepford.”

The dog puppet was everywhere again four years later, during the 2008 race. He was back at both the Democratic and Republican Conventions, and even nabbed a halfway serious interview with the surprisingly humorous third party candidate Ralph Nader.

At the 2008 Republican National Convention.

Insulting in Chicago.

And he’s never been in better and sharper form – ready for the 2012 conventions, campaign and election.

Earlier this month,  Triumph closed out Conan‘s last show broadcast in Chicago, in a pre-taped segment. In it, he staged a confrontation similar to the one with Simon Cowell, this time counter-insulting the bulliers who work at the city’s famous Wieners Circle food stand, who routinely curse, belittle and intimidate customer.

Triumph shouted them down, in seeming defense of all those shocked and hurt customers who had only wanted a damned hot dog. “Why do you say hurtful things?! Words matter! Seriously. Yelling at people like this for a living? How do you sleep…in your car at night!” “Here’s the segment:

Dream Triumph encounters? Donald Trump? Joan Rivers? Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian and the other one? Oprah Winfrey?

With Mitt Romney’s five sons now scheduled to all appear together on Conan, Triumph may finally get the real answer about the family dog their father famously strapped on top of their car in a dog-carrier. Watch out Romney sons.

Is Triumph revving up to take on the Democrats and the Republicans in the 2012 Presidential Election?

Triumph is really the bite of the underdog in all of us. His very name suggests the effort he makes to right the wrongs which the masses cannot do – even if only with satire and outrageously comic anger.

He’d do Mark Twain proud.

Categories: Dogs, Television

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2 replies »

  1. I laughed out loud with this article! Wouldn’t it be great if Triumph had a half hour segment on CNN, right after the “situation room” of Wolf Blitzer. Now that would make me tune in!
    Thanks for the laugh, Carl!

    • Wow – so glad you liked it. I do have a range of tastes and I’m also a dyed-in-the-wool Independent so Triumph is a fine symbol of my non-party. I wonder if a 1/2 hour show might be too much in that vein – although with commercials it would only be 18 minutes and that’s the length of just two of his segments on the new Conan show, longer than they were on NBC>

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