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

Triumph secretly runs a focus group of Trump supporters on The Late Show

Triumph The Insult Comic Dog
Triumph The Insult Comic Dog
Screenshot: The Late Show

Triumph The Insult Comic Dog (aka Robert Smigel’s voice and arm) has been plying his trade of insult comedy and puppet-y political ambushes over at The Late Show for a while now. The correspondent’s irreverent, deeply disrespectful verbal assaults on the deeply deserving traditionally follow a set pattern: Triumph somehow squirms his way into a press scrum; Triumph asks Smigel’s pointedly rude questions; Unlucky celebrity or politician is put in the no-win position of either letting Triumph’s vicious, uncomfortably truthful dig slide or get visibly angry at a dime-store hand puppet; Triumph and Smigel are escorted out by lackeys who have been given the “please help me” high sign. Standard Triumph.

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But these are not usual days, and Triumph felt that the upcoming election and the attendant ramp-up of “herd mentality” from Trump’s rabid (or at least defiantly COVID-maskless) supporters was the right time to switch things up on Wednesday’s segment. Instead of hurling himself, cigar-first, into a gaggle of Trump fans, Triumph sat behind one-way glass to watch an actual focus group of Trump voters react to a series of no-doubt Smigel-penned Trump ads, where Stephen Colbert’s preferred Trump impressionist (Jeff Bergman) pitched, in voice-over, some barely exaggerated Trump talking points to see if anyone would, ever, jump off the Trump train. That the unseen Triumph switched from his observation martini to swigging straight bleach as things went on should indicate how that experiment ultimately went.

Now, to be fair to these patriotic Americans, um, at least the polling company’s corporate policies mandated masks, so their whole faces won’t be known to the viewing public. Even the man proudly wearing the old, banned-under-pressure racist logo of the Washington D.C. football team who claimed that Trump “speaks some of the things I wanna just scream sometimes.” You know, like the proposed commercial pitch about electrifying Confederate statues to zap protesters. (Sure, we’ll lose some whizzing dogs, but that’s the price we pay to publicly honor our slaveholding, traitorous history.)

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Then there’s the plan to have the upcoming election be a best two out of three, four-year playoff system. (“He can executive order anything!,” urged another focus grouper enthusiastically coming out for banana republic suspension of the Constitution.) And the Trump-repeated, perilously wrong assertion that kids can’t get coronavirus, leading to a scheme for kids as young as five take over everything from supermarket clerks to police officers. There was a little pushback there, but only from the woman who said that, maybe, five was too young to be hauling firehoses and fighting deadly wildfires. (12-year-olds would be better.) The group was also all-in on a Trump-promised, delicious and effective COVID vaccine (fine print: “May not work.”), delivered only to swing states that vote for Trump in November. Answers there ranged from giving the politically miraculous cure to to that RNC-approved couple who threatened to shoot Black Lives Matter protesters over Oprah Winfrey (“She’s voting for Biden!”), to withholding a supposedly live-saving medicine from COVID-ravaged New York entirely because, as one vocal Trump supporter put it, Andrew Cuomo “is a flippin’ idiot.”

It was a more conceptual evening with Triumph than we’re used to, letting the all-American, all-white group out themselves Sacha Baron Cohen-style as not just ride-or-die Trump acolytes, but, in some cases, deeply, predictably disturbing ones. (The type who, one suspects, would have no issue with punching out a hand puppet.) To the “kids working in meat-packing plants” portion of the presentation, one woman needed no prompting to leap right to “the Mexicans” as the ideal child sacrifices, hopping straight to a litany of bigoted stereotypes that’d make daddy Donald proud. Edging into the increasing conservative coziness with straight-up fascist war crimes in Trump’s name, even the supposedly leaked audio of their boy suggesting to a flustered coronavirus yes-person Deborah Birx that the government try out microwaving people to eradicate the virus only got a flicker of resistance.

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Sure, one guy does exclaim, “I’s still vote for him, but that was stupid,” but the entire group was more about advising how their chosen leader could spin yet another disqualifying-to-anyone-in-a-functional-democracy recorded outrage. That even as the man they thought was Trump argued that his microwave plan would be tried out on, “not human beings—we have all these immigrants in the camps.” In conclusion, Triumph attempted to stuff himself inside a break room microwave himself, which an evening with a roomful of MAGA minions makes at least understandable.

There are 46 days til Election Day.

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

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