Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

TCA: Triumph Cranks Up More Insults in Second Hulu Special

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

TCA: Triumph Cranks Up More Insults in Second Hulu Special

Article excerpt

Find more of Gail Pennington's reports from the TV Critics Association summer press tour in Los Angeles at tubetalk.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. * Crashing a political convention was surprisingly difficult for comic Robert Smigel and his foul-mouth dog puppet, Triumph. But Smigel found an entree that worked particularly well: He hired a Roger Ailes impersonator.

More about that later, but first, the insults.

In an appearance with TV critics meeting in Los Angeles, Triumph briefly tried to smooth things over after previously referring to the TCA (Television Critics Association) as the "triple chin association." He went on to make a joke about his employer, Hulu, that is unprintable in any form. He described his puppeteer in a way that was equally unprintable. (They don't call him "insult comic" for nothing.)

Then Smigel (spoiler alert!) got out from behind the couch, put Triumph away and talked as himself, beginning by asking, "How awkward is this?" He added: "I'm Robert, and that's what I do for a living."

What Smigel does is write and perform comedy, often with his arm up the backside of an irascible dog. Triumph, the cigar-chomping Rottweiler with the old-world accent, made his debut in 1997 on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."

"The voice is based on an Eastern European accent that I've been doing with dogs since I was kid," Smigel explained. "I just always imagined dogs talking that way. My mom's whole side of her family was first-generation Russian immigrants, so that accent was in my life all the time."

Triumph was born as a bit player. He "used to just appear in the middle of Conan's show. Conan would have guests on, like John Tesh and William Shatner, and Conan is hilarious, but one of the most polite hosts. So Triumph provided catharsis by saying whatever the audience was waiting to hear."

Getting political is new for Triumph.

"I've done Triumph for almost 20 years, but ... I just started to realize that, now that the tone of politics is taking this nasty turn, it might be funny to see how Triumph fits in," Smigel said. "I'm just diving in because it feels like the right time."

Smigel and Triumph were nominated for an Emmy for their first election special (available on Hulu), so the streaming network followed up with a second. …

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