On the eve of election day in the US, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog showed up on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show to report on the hotly contested Texas senate race. What followed will soon become the stuff of legend.
Triumph—the cigar-smoking canine puppeteered by comedian Robert Smigel who’s best known for insulting celebrities to their faces in a vaguely Eastern European accent—visited campaign stops for both candidates: Republican incumbent Ted Cruz, and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.
The comic dog didn’t completely spare O’Rourke or his supporters, introducing them as “a terrifying swarm of degenerate young leftists with one thing in common: They all share the same Netflix account.” (Triumph also made fun of O’Rourke’s 1990s punk band, Foss, by suggesting that playing its music at the US border with Mexico might be an effective deterrent to would-be immigrants.)
But the focus was mainly on Cruz, perhaps the most widely loathed senator in the United States. Cruz and the dog, you see, have a bit of a history. Smigel had tried to talk to Cruz several times in the past but was never able to get close, and even got thrown out of some events. ”I never got to meet him, despite being the only person in the world who wants to,” Triumph told Colbert last night (Nov. 5).
So when Triumph finally did get a chance to talk face-to-face with the Texas senator, he made it count. Triumph started out by heckling Cruz from the crowd: “I have a pre-existing condition that makes me vomit out of my eyes whenever I look at you,” he yelled at one point. “Is that in the GOP healthcare plan?”
“You can’t ignore me Ted,” he went on. “I’m not ‘overwhelming scientific evidence of global warming.'”
Cruz eventually submitted to an “interview” with Triumph, who proceeded to ask him “questions” such as: “Is it true you will defend the constitution at all costs, except when Donald Trump calls it ugly on Twitter?” (A reference, of course, to Trump suggesting that Cruz’s wife is unattractive in a tweet.)
But the highlight came later, when Cruz tried to make a joke of his own: “Just remember, it wasn’t the Republicans, it was the Democrats, who took you into the vet to get fixed,” Cruz said, perfectly teeing up the experienced insult comic.
“I support spaying and neutering,” Triumph shot back, “just like Trump did to you.” The joke spoke to the awkward truth at the center of Cruz’s reelection campaign: That despite the crassness of Trump’s past attacks on him and his family, and Cruz’s proclamation during the 2016 primary that he was no “servile puppy dog,” Cruz nonetheless endorsed and enthusiastically supports Trump, and has been dependent on the president campaigning on his behalf.
Triumph also toyed with Cruz’s supporters at the rally, which he compared to a “Duck Dynasty cosplay convention.”
“What do you think was harder for Ted to forgive: Trump for insulting Ted’s wife, or that mongoose for eating Ted’s offspring?” he asked a group of Cruz supporters. “You see, because, Ted is a reptile.” (That theme would continue, with mentions of Cruz’s “re-generating tail” and Triumph suggesting Cruz is “the hideous fish monster” from The Shape of Water.)
Triumph even managed to trick some in the crowd into chanting “Lyin’ Ted“—the nickname given to the senator by Trump during the 2016 Republican presidential primaries.