Was A Canadian Sock Inspiration For Triumph, The Insult Comic Dog?
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A waggling cigar, sardonic voice, and devastating yet hilarious insults. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog has built a surprisingly long career out of these simple elements, but he was hardly a pioneer in the put-down puppet business. Years before Triumph was finding celebrities to poop on, there was Ed the Sock.
Canadian media guy Steve Kerzner invented Ed out of necessity back in 1987. “I was running a small TV station and needed a co-host for a late-night style show,” Kerzner told ComedyNerd. “The only person available was me but I was hosting political programs. So I grabbed art supplies from the kids’ show cabinet and constructed Ed, with a cigar that had been left around.”
It’s a Canadian Sock Makes Good story. Soon, Ed was running on small TV stations across the country, then to Citytv where the Sock cracked wise with celebs like Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, and Chris Martin. Ed the Sock was syndicated around the world, even becoming a VJ on Muchmusic (the Canadian version of MTV) and landing his own late-night gig, Ed’s Night Party.
Of course, late-night is where all the juicy conflict takes place. In the mid-1990s, Kerzner says he was contacted by the talent coordinator for new late-night host Conan O’Brien. “I sent them tapes and we had a number of phone conversations about how Ed would work within Conan’s show,” he says. “Then she suddenly told me they were going in another direction.”
Sure, happens all the time. But then Kerzner started getting calls from friends congratulating him for getting Ed the Sock on American TV. Of course, it wasn’t Ed after all.
One can imagine why Kerzner believed Conan and head writer Robert Smigel created a character to poop on Ed the Sock.
Or did they? Smigel, for his part, denied ripping off the character in a Reddit AMA. “I like Ed the Sock, but there’s no connection. Never saw him until I heard people saying we had stolen from him,” he claims. “I thought of Triumph independently … out of a bit I started on the show in 1994.”
Given Kerzner’s multiple conversations with Conan’s team, is it possible Smigel came up with Triumph on his own? “Well,” allows Kerzner, “I’ve watched shows about amazing coincidences on the Discovery Channel, so it’s possible.”
(This wasn’t the only time Triumph got into it with another puppet. In 1999, the Insult Comic Dog was taking shots at pets.com’s sock puppet mascot for ripping off his act. Pets.com fired back with a lawsuit, one that went away when the company filed for bankruptcy. In a fit of revenge, Triumph humped the pets.com mascot on Conan’s show.)
The Conan show wasn’t the last disappointment for Ed the Sock. At one point, Kerzner was in talks with Comedy Central about carrying Ed’s Night Party. Those talks ended when Comedy Central began developing a new show with … you guessed it, Triumph. “That stung,” says Kerzner. “But it was years ago.”
Fortunately, Ed the Sock has persevered as a Canadian comedy icon. He continues to hurl comic insults at his fellow countrymen, including debates with high-ranking members of the Conservative Party leading up to Canada’s 2019 federal election. According to Kerzner, higher-ups in the Justin Trudeau team say Ed’s influence helped win the election.
As for Ed’s Night Party, the show did make it to America, running for a few seasons on G4.
And today, Ed is the face of newmusicnation.ca, an online music channel featuring independent artists. So … no hard feelings?
“Ed has achieved so much success and forged such a bond with Canadians that I don’t carry any ill-will toward Smigel or Triumph,” says Kerzner. “S**t happens.”
Top Image: Muchmusic, NBCUniversal