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A Birthday Tribute to Robert Smigel

Comic, actor, and the man behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

Adam Chandler
February 07, 2013
Robert Smigel and Triumph(MTV)
Robert Smigel and Triumph(MTV)

Today is Robert Smigel’s birthday. If you’re not familiar with Smigel then you might have unknowingly done yourself a favor. That said, the one-time Saturday Night Live writer, occasional actor, and performer has quite a following among people of a certain age who happen to love vulgarity and send-ups of celebrities. Smigel, the son of a famous dentist, has been on the scene for decades now.

One of my favorite examples of his SNL work is a skit where an Israeli (played by Tom Hanks) starts his own version of The Price Is Right, where he attempts to sell items at terrible prices instead of give them away. If you don’t remember (or haven’t seen) “The Sabra Price Is Right” then prepare to have your mind blown. The skit includes Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Chris Farley, and Robert Smigel himself as the show’s announcer Avi.

One of Smigel’s greatest feats was creating that character Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, a puppet dog that while chomping on a cigar, fearlessly lampoons celebrities in profanity-laced tirades that some might consider to be an homage to the old Borscht Belt routines where the comic insulted his crowd. The clip below is from last year when Triumph walked into the lion’s den–Chicago’s Wiener Circle–and lashed abuse back at its notoriously rude staff.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.