Triumph the Insult Comedy Dog is one of the most unlikely successes of the past ten years. Veteran SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE writer Robert Smigel has managed to create the funniest and most irreverent insult comedy act since Don Rickles, though with two major differences: unlike Rickles he is truly funny, and unlike Rickles, whose insults rarely are personal, Smigel/Triumph hits uncomfortably close to home (i.e., his insults really are insults, while Rickle's are usually invalid name calling). Appearing primarily on the Conan O'Brien show, Smigel has managed to parlay what would have with a less funny individual into a one-note gimmick act into a significant second career. Triumph is a cigar chomping miniature Rottweiller with what appears to be an East European accent, who covers, as he loves to put it, various events "for me to poop on." I personally am not drawn to the sexual and scatological humor in Smigel's act, and I haven't found Triumph's dry humping a host of interviewees to be all that funny. But his one-liners are absolutely hysterical, and the way he can perfectly bury someone with a deadly accurate crack is a thing of wonder. How can you take someone seriously dressed up as Darth Vader ("the nerd before whom all other nerds tremble") when Triumph asks which button on his chest pack contacts the wearer's parents to come pick him up?
This DVD does an excellent job of sampling some of Triumph's best interviews. We get not one but two visits he takes to the Westminster Dog show, where he spends most of his time boasting of his many sexual conquests, getting thrown out the first time and coming the second pretending to be either Ed Bradley of 60 MINUTES or Barbara Walters. There is a short account of his experience on the HOLLYWOOD SQUARES, and a long piece covering the lead up to a Bon Jovi concert. My favorite part of the entire DVD is, however, his encounter with many STAR WARS fans lined up for the first showing of THE ATTACK OF THE CLONES. The disc also includes the extremely disturbing moment where Eminem's entourage unhumorously shoves Triumph to the side
Triumph is definitely not for everyone. Not everyone is going to take to his humor, and some people find his shtick to be a little too far on the negative side. If you don't already know Triumph, the disc should be approached with caution. But if you already know and enjoy his humor, I can highly recommend the disc. Triumph has managed to build a surprising following over the years, and last year even managed to get interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air," the height of respectability.
I do slightly regret the timing of the release of this disc. Only a couple of months after the appearance of THE BEST OF TRIUMPH, probably the funniest single thing he has ever done appeared on Conan when Triumph covered one of the presidential debates in the piece known as "Poop Valhalla." The video can be seen on various sites on the Internet, and anyone Googling "poop," "Valhalla," and "Triumph" will definitely have their efforts regarded with one of the most hysterically funny bits one can ever hope to see.