'Triumph's Election Special 2016': TV Review

Courtesy of Hulu
Triumph the Insult Comic Dog skewers politicians and supporters painfully and funnily.

The surprise appearance on Hulu is an immediate must see for comedy lovers and political, um, haters?

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog has a new “election special” on Hulu that popped up with virtually no promotion or warning. And perhaps the greatest surprise of the first episode was how many people mastermind Robert Smigel got to talk freely — and with a ceaseless amount of stupidity — on just about everything.

If you want to face-palm yourself over the future of this country — and perhaps die laughing in the process — get to Hulu immediately and watch the special.

It has some moments that made me laugh harder and longer than most sitcoms recently, and despite its hit-and-miss nature (partly owing to a very long running time of nearly 90 minutes), the special, produced by Funny or Die and Hulu, is consistently humorous and simultaneously astonishing along the way.

Triumph and Smigel attend Republican and Democratic events in New Hampshire and Iowa, riffing like mad on every one of the candidates and, sometimes to greater effect, the people who have come out to support them with closed minds. There are so many hilarious and squirm-inducing moments where ordinary people say the darndest and dumbest things — while talking to a fake dog with a cigar, held by Smigel, who often ends up making the jokes funnier by laughing before he gets to the punchline. Even he can’t believe what he’s about to say and perhaps more so that people aren’t (for the most part) turning on their heels and going in the opposite direction. Nope. Mostly they stay and feel perfectly fine either agreeing to insane ideas or voicing their own.

On Jeb Bush, Triumph says to supporters: “I was thinking he should change his name to something a little more appealing, like Wilkes Booth.”

The ribald dog often gets some of the less popular and therefore desperate candidates to talk directly to him. Others he shouts into the crowd.

To John Kasich: “How would you describe the mood of your campaign? Unrealistic or delusional?”

To Martin O’Malley. “Did it bother you that you were only visible to the people watching the 70mm version of the debate?”

To Ted Cruz: “When did Gepetto make you a real boy?”

When Triumph can’t get close to the more popular campaigns, he gets people to pretend for him. One game African-American woman (who can walk) gets in a wheelchair, because what politician could avoid that combo? Her question to two members of Hillary Clinton’s team: “When Hilary goes to her hair stylist, does she show them a picture of Siegfried or Roy?”

When Triumph can’t get close to Cruz, he rents a giant bus just like Cruz’s. Or uses the actor who plays “The Dell Dude” in the old computer ads to be a surrogate. He even gets one man to pretend to be a veteran so that he can talk to Cruz and ask prepared questions. The one that got through was about how the man liked Cruz’s impersonations. And this, to Cruz’s face: “You do a spot on impression of an American.”

Not everything works, because how could it? And if you don’t go for Triumph’s legendarily dirty jokes about sex acts and defecation, not all of this will be for you. Sometimes you just have to marvel at what people will do to be on television and what they will say to a microphone in their faces.

And that brings us to Mike Huckabee, now currently out of the race, who decides to play along, extensively, with Triumph, and you get the sense that Smigel can barely contain both his astonishment and glee at Huckabee’s willingness to be made fun of and spout pre-done Triumph jokes. Honestly, it’s kind of jaw-dropping.

Some of the most brilliant stuff is high-concept, like hiring “multiple robotic blonde women posing as Fox News reporters” to read made up and patently ridiculous “news” from other campaigns. People are almost always funnier or at least crazier than whatever is scripted.

Then again, Triumph does know how to be funny while talking to supporters: “I think Bernie has a big shot to win the election. Here’s what I think he needs to do — live for six more months.” Or even Sanders’ own people: “If Sanders is here, who is going to bring Marty back to the future?”

If you’re sensitive to, well, anything that’s politically incorrect, you’ll probably want to skip this, but you’d be missing out on both sides of the joke. There are two extended bits about Chris Christie’s weight, including one where he’s speaking at a school and a faux Fox reporter tells a gaggle of Christie supporters that he’s going to be late because he’s stuck in a classroom desk — and then we get an actor who looks like Christie being cut from the chair outside by firefighters using a saw as the supporters gasp. “He’s now being comforted with pizza,” the reporter tells them.

As these bits go on, Triumph tells one woman that, “We’re from a new show called People Are Incredibly Gullible and Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Vote.”

Next stop is the University of New Hampshire, famous for its “bias-free language guide” where its students demanded ridiculously correct usage on, well, most everything. That a group of students would allow Triumph and Smigel to school them so emphatically and viciously is a testament to their lack of self-awareness, but it’s no less funny (and uncomfortable) to watch.

They are “people seeking a safe space inside of a safety school,” and his evisceration of the constraints of their wishes is relentless.

 “I think we should break up the banks,” one says, followed by Triumph asking, “Then how are you going to access your parents’ money?”

Some of the bits inside the studio, a kind of Hulu home base for the election, don’t work as well, but Smigel’s comedy is like a machine gun with a stuck trigger. Eventually it hits enough and causes enough carnage to be hilarious and stunning and, in this coming election, necessary. Here's a vote for it.

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