Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Triumph The Insult Comic Dog gives the GOP’s farcical impeachment defense the coverage it deserves

Triumph, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Triumph, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Screenshot: The Late Show

Stephen Colbert has routinely blurred the lines between political satire and reportage in interviewing political figures over the years, but that line is never more blurry than when he farms out a field piece to his pugnacious puppet pal, Triumph. The Insult Comic Dog, as he’s also known, may or may not be Robert Smigel with a GoPro on his head and an unidentifiable Eastern European accent, but, as Colbert noted, he’s the only reporter tough, abusive, and ridiculous enough to cover what’s been a transparently farcical GOP defense of Donald Trump during Trump’s ongoing impeachment trial. Colbert threw to Triumph outside the Senate, where the irascible and, yes, dogged puppet journalist prefaced his signature dog-on-the-arm-on-the-street interviews by noting that the trial has been especially hard for Republican senators, since trial rules require them to sit and listen for a great deal of time “without a spine to support them.” And we’re off.

Once inside the building Triumph walked the line alongside his fellow would-be interlocutors, noting, as Colbert did, that, for some reason no one in America could possibly speculate about, Republicans have put “unprecedented restrictions on the press corps.” Finding a sheepishly smiling black man working a Fox News camera, Triumph did a double-take before assuring the guy, “A check’s a check, huh?” From there, though, all Triumph’s brash, investigative acumen was laser-pointer focused on the GOP senators as they hurriedly scurried past on their way to their sacred civic duty, mostly averting their eyes from the dog puppet shouting out all Smigel’s most provocative cheap shots at full volume. Mitt Romney (R-UT) was asked for a ride home, Triumph offering to ride strapped to the roof of his car. (No comment from the senator.) Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was used as a prop, his reported $100 million net worth summed up by Triumph as “or, as Donald Trump calls it, a billion dollars.”

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But it was South Carolina Republican and most shameless (it’s about a ten-way tie) Trump sycophant Lindsey Graham who provoked the former Conan O’Brien attack journalist the most. From mocking Graham’s appearance (“You look like every guy who saw the movie Cats alone!”), to Graham’s not-at-all suspicious about-face on literally everything he ever said about impeachment (“Why did you change everything about yourself but keep that haircut?”), to Triumph’s greatest triumph of all, being escorted away by security at a Graham press stand-up (but not before holding up a “Will lie for rubles” sign that made it into national news coverage), Triumph was intent on making the even-for-a-politician shamelessly hypocritical Graham his, well, bitch.

Less successful were his attempts to bust into the locked offices of Senators like ace democracy saboteur Mitch McConnell (not even the promise of lettuce could entice him out of his “office/terrarium”), longtime Triumph nemesis Ted Cruz, or even Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi. (Triumph didn’t try too hard on that one, to be honest.) Even less fruitful were Triumph/Smigel’s attempts to brazen his way past security into reaches of the Senate that—again for reasons no one can possibly know, whatsoever—the GOP is banning the press from entering. His Late Show credentials proving ineffective, Triumph tried everything—Big Pharma lobbyist disguise (complete with bottles of anti-depressants for Democrats, and “anti-semites” for white supremacist Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King), a saucy masseuse costume for Trump legal laughingstock Alan Dershowitz, a John Bolton mustache (and, after that tanked, a John Bolton impersonator)—all to no avail. Cringe comedy involving pestering people just doing their jobs is one of Triumph’s moves, so here’s to the Capital security guys (only one of whom apparently signed away his face-blurring rights) who maintained a Buckingham Palace Guard stoicism throughout, even when Triumph dragooned Democratic Congressman and guy who’s apparently up for whatever, Brad Sherman, to try and sneak him inside. Perhaps a little chagrined at his failure, Triumph signed off, inevitably touting the Senate as “the greatest deliberative body in the world—for me to poop on!”

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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