Robert Smigel’s Wife Bought Him The Triumph Puppet After He Made It Sniff Her Ass In A Furniture Store
The secret to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s success is a great marriage… for him to poop on.
Robert Smigel has been a household name to comedy fans since he originated the position of head writer on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 1993 – but Triumph the Insult Comic Dog is even better known by anyone who has ever had a bone to pick with Star Wars superfans, American Idol contestants or the Democratic National Convention. With one of the most illustrious IMDb pages in comedy, Smigel’s single most impressive achievement is making a bow tie-wearing, cigar-smoking dog puppet the most popular insult comic on TV – well, actually, it’s his second most awe-inspiring accomplishment, behind marrying fellow comedy writer and producer Michelle Saks.
On a recent episode of Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, Smigel discussed the origins of his venerated ventriloquism act, revealing that the original Triumph puppet was actually purchased by Saks after Smigel absolutely nailed an impromptu bit while furniture shopping. Some couples split up because of a cataclysmic trip to IKEA – the Smigels turn couch shopping into comedy history.
“I have to credit my wife,” Smigel explained when Conan asked about the origins of the character that quickly became a star on Late Night in the late 1990s. “I found Triumph on this rack of whimsical puppets when we were newlyweds and we were hunting for furniture,” Smigel recalled, “I immediately put on one of the dog puppets, (and I) sniffed her ass with it right in the furniture store. And, of course, she found it funny, because she's the perfect woman for me.”
Saks' perfection wouldn't stop there, however – as Smigel remembered, “Then she surprised me in February, two months later with seven of these puppets. And that gave me the idea for this Westminster thing,” referencing Triumph's first ever appearance on Late Night when, in February 1997, Conan brought him on to parody the prestigious Westminster Dog Show in a cabaret-style puppet show that ended with Triumph's first-ever insult comedy set.
From there, Triumph took off as arguably the greatest original character from Conan's late-night run, and he continues to poop on his targets today. Smigel and Saks went on to have three children together and are still happily married – and, if Smigel ever runs into writer's block, he can always just ask his wife to help him pick out a chaise lounge.