I recently had the pleasure ... no, wait a minute, that's not right the degrading experience of being a "special guest" in a two-hour slime-a-thon at New York's Irving Plaza starring the most irascible entertainer in all of show business.
I speak, of course, of that famously hostile hand puppet, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Surely you know Triumph from his years of appearances on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." No doubt you recall his memorable encounter with Jon Bon Jovi, in which Jon Bon unwisely mentioned that he would soon be acting in a vampire movie, and Triumph responded, "Finally, a role that requires you to suck."
And who could forget Triumph turning up at the MTV Video Music Awards, where he asked Jennifer Lopez if he could sniff her butt? J. Lo, you'll recall, was not amused. "She doesn't understand," Triumph says. "For a dog, it's like climbing Mount Everest."
Triumph seems to have a thing about Jennifer Lopez, actually. "Let's face it," he says, "it's all about the butt. Have you heard her album? I think her butt actually sings on it."
At the Irving Plaza show where I turned up for a ration of ritual abuse ("You look like a chew toy, man"), Triumph also "pooped on" (as he puts it) such other sorta-well-known guests as the kid from the Dell computer commercials, the man from the Subway sandwich ads and the guy who plays "Big Pussy" on "The Sopranos" (Vincent Pastore, who actually is famous). He also had kind words for his guest band that night, Fountains of Wayne. "Okay," Triumph said when the veteran alterna-rockers walked out onstage, "the first thing everybody wants to know: Who the f--- are you guys?"
Then he turned his attention to other pop oddities, like Gwyneth Paltrow's unforgettable Academy Awards dress, which presented her breasts in such an unflattering light. ("They looked like two raviolis lost in a hair net.") And a particularly catty red-carpet harridan. ("Joan Rivers calling someone ugly? That's like my a--hole calling someone brown.") He even took shots at fellow canines dachshunds, for example: "The only dog that's shaped like its own poop."
"I keeed, I keeed," Triumph says after these savage sallies, although not at all persuasively. His distinctive accent is a kind of pseudo-south-of-the-border mish-mash, but it's hard to pin down. Asked about it by a curious interviewer from the online magazine "Shecky" a while back, he got a little snarly: "It's called a dog accent, moron. That's how all dogs talk!"
Triumph also warbled a number of his trademark songs at the Irving Plaza show, all of them scabrous: "Underage Bichon," "Lick Myself," "Benji's Queer." I'd reproduce some of the lyrics here, but then we'd be descending into the sort of copy that's characterized almost entirely by asterisks, and nobody wants to wade through that.
Triumph doesn't come up with this stuff on his own, of course. The man behind the puppet (or beneath it, actually) is long-time "Saturday Night Live" and "Conan" writer Robert Smigel, who may well be the funniest man on the planet. At Irving Plaza, a full house of Triumph groupies was literally doubled over with laughter from start to finish. Me included.
What next for the inimitable Mr. T? Well, Smigel says there may be a brief Triumph tour in the near future (brief because writing and puppeteering these shows is incredibly exhausting). And there's a Triumph album in the works, too, called Songs in the Key of Poop, which will be out from Warner Bros. in the fall. Can a movie be far behind? A line of designer leashes, maybe? What should we do while we wait?
"Poop on," Triumph says.