If the 2016 election has taught us anything, it’s that the only thing we have to fear is the fear of Donald Trump supporters. Reminding us of this is Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog (voiced and puppeteered by Robert Smigel), who returns to Hulu in his Summer Election Special 2016 to expose the ghoulish inhumanity the Trumpenproletariat is capable of. Despite the crazed mania with which one GOP voter beats up a man in a polar bear costume with a bat after Triumph goads him about “people who complain about global warming,” some of the puppet’s interviewees-cum-targets are obviously putting on a show for the cameras. Not so the focus group of Republicans asked to rate various policy ideas from the Trump campaign: They’re skeptical of the logistics but mostly OK with forcing all 122 million Mexicans to wear shock collars that’ll zap if they attempt to cross the electrical fence that should be installed while the border wall is being built. One woman in a Cleveland Indians t-shirt records a fake ad endorsing Trump’s plan for outsmarting China: “The only way to compete with the Chinese is to lower their IQ by injecting their water with various paints and sulfates.”
Even in the crowded political comedy scene, Triumph’s 65-minute special (out yesterday, August 11) stands out as a must-see for its hilarious stunts, vulgar wit, and fuck-you fearlessness. Smigel meets the rage and spite of The Donald fans head-on, matching their nastiness in a delicious display of low-minded smarts. “Which minority are you most excited about oppressing?” he asks one RNC attendee. He has a Roger Ailes lookalike walk around with a sign that reads “Will sexually harass for food.” At the DNC, he sighs, “The only thing longer than this campaign is Bernie’s scrotum.”
Shorter and more scripted than February’s primary special, Triumph’s latest outing finds him relishing his new role as the Democrats’ attack dog. Sure, he thinks the difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is the one between pee and poo, but when he turns on the liberals, he takes a bite out of Bernie bros, not Hillary or her supporters. Smigel’s quick quips make the most of the earlier convention sequences, and the hour hits a horrifying high note during that focus group test, in which comedy attempts to catch up with reality in terms of the batshit-crazy things that come out of Trump’s mouth. It’s some of the best satire of the Trumped-up GOP’s sexism, racism, classism, transphobia, and violence (god, couldn't they at least be terrible in fewer ways?) that we’ve seen all election season.
After that segment, the Summer Election Special peters out, with a bizarrely long takedown of Benjamin Franklin (played by Dennis “Mr. Belding” Haskins) and “Trump” visiting Cleveland neighborhoods in a tank. (A tiny hand pops out of the top to wave at the glaring faces on the street.) The tank rolls over a parked car in front of appalled onlookers, but Triumph doesn’t need a big-budget exploit to grab our attention. Much more effective is his cheap-as-can-be costume of ousted Democratic Party head Debbie Wasserman Schultz: a few strands of ramen glued to the top of his head. When New York Senator Chuck Schumer pumps his fist at the canine comic, grandstanding about party unity, Triumph takes the opportunity to point out the absurdity of modern politics: “You’re talking to a puppet with pasta on his head.”