And in a year when political satire has flourished, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s primary election special was a standout. So he’s back from the bluster and balloons of the national political conventions with “Triumph’s Summer Election Special 2016” (Hulu, streaming).
Robert Smigel, the man behind the puppet, might be so overburdened by all that’s happening politically, his puppet occasionally loses his distinctive accent, which he says is “based on an Eastern European accent that I’ve been doing with dogs since I was kid.”
As he told bemused writers at the TV Critics Association summer press tour that’s just ending today, “I just always imagined dogs talking that way.”
He’s had to hide Triumph to get to some of his targets, though — a rubbery dog head is just too obvious a comic plant.
He holds a sign up behind Jake Tapper’s reporting booth that says “Positively No Photobombing” and attends a violence training program for reporters going to the Republican National Convention.
“I didn’t want to have to have Triumph carry the entire 80 minutes just insulting people, so we’re coming up with all these different ideas,” Smigel says. “We actually bring a Telemundo I don’t want to spoil the joke, but we brought a fake Telemundo reporter to the RNC. It’s one of my favorite bits in the show.”
One of the most difficult thing of doing the Triumph character is getting replacement puppets.
“What’s interesting is the company went out of business, like, five years after I found the first puppet, which was at a furniture store, and there was just a rack of incredibly realistic looking dogs and other animals.
“A couple years later, NBC wanted to make a Triumph puppet and make a deal with the company, and they could not find it. The Mexican company had just disappeared. So they made a Triumph doll anyway, but made it a little fatter and squattier just to be safe. Now we’ve made a mold of it, and that’s how we make new ones now. I was, like, scrambling on eBay for years just trying to find a few more.”
With Triumph back, and having won an Emmy nomination for the primary special, they were encouraged to come up with some bigger ideas for the convention special. One of the ideas was a big carnival at the parking lot for the Republican Convention where conventioneers could dunk a man in a dunking booth dressed like a Muslim.
“One of the jokes that we wanted to do,” Smigel says, “we were going to have a claw machine — those claw machines that you see at arcades — that just had a pile of guns in it.”
It didn’t make the special, he says, because “we couldn’t get the look right in time. When we piled them all together, they were all black and you couldn’t see it right on camera.”
He plans to pile up the AR-15s some other time, with Triumph egging on “Come on! …
Go for the big one!”