Robert Smigel Triumph

Comedy Triumph

10 Videos That Prove Robert Smigel is a Comedic Genius

Catch Robert Smigel tonight at 10P on Portlandia.

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Photo Credit: Team Coco

You may not know his name, but you certainly know his work. If you’re a fan of Conan O’Brien, Adam Sandler or Saturday Night Live, you’ve laughed at one of his jokes. Here’s a guy who Bob Odenkirk credits with teaching him how to write sketch comedy. Who Louis C.K. co-wrote an episode of his FX series Louie with, based on an incident from Smigel’s own life. He was the first head writer of Late Night w/ Conan O’Brien, and a standout on one of the greatest writing staffs of all time, for The Dana Carvey Show. Heck, the projects he hasn’t gotten made, like a musical movie based on the SNL sketch “Hans and Franz,” still sound better than most of the stuff out there. Before you catch him on tonight’s brand new episode of Portlandia, check out just a few of the things Robert Smigel has done to make you laugh.


10. Gyros Sketch From SNL

You like-ah the Juice? Then you’ll remember this sketch, featuring Smigel as one of the overeager Gyro slingers who love customer feedback. While Smigel popped up in a variety of sketches during his time on SNL, he made his name as a standout writer. He was first hired to join the writing staff in 1985, during a disastrous season that saw nearly every other writer fired. He would survive the bloodletting, and become one of the most idiosyncratic and distinct writers in the show’s history.


9. The Trekkies sketch from SNL

One of the most famous sketches Smigel penned saw William Shatner telling a roomful of Trekkies to move out of their parents’ basements. The iconic scene, which Shatner would call “equal parts comedy and catharsis,” would prove so popular that the actor behind Captain Kirk would go on to write both a book and make a documentary called, appropriately, “Get a Life!”


8. Da Superfans from SNL

You might remember Smigel as one fourth of “da” Superfans, uber Chicago sports nuts who talked about Ditka almost as much as they suffered heart attacks. Smigel first wrote the sketch when he was performing in the Happy Happy Good Show, a live Chicago comedy show that he starred in with fellow SNL scribes Bob Odenkirk and Conan O’Brien during the 1988 writers strike. Premiering on SNL in 1991, during a week in which the Giants were scheduled to play the Bears, the Superfans would go on to become one of the most popular recurring sketches in the show’s history.


7. Impersonating Clinton, Bush, and many more on Late Night with Conan O’Brien

As head writer in the early days of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Smigel got to put his stamp on the show in its infancy. One of his longest running bits was “Via Satellite,” in which Smigel’s lips would be superimposed on top of the picture of some notable person, and he’d run roughshod over them. From Bill Clinton to Arnold Schwarzenegger, these insane impressions undercut a whole era of politics and pop culture.


6. Night of Too Many Stars

While Smigel has climbed to the top of the comedy heap, his life isn’t without its complications. He and his wife are parents to a child with autism, and as a result he’s become highly involved in charity work surrounding the disorder, even serving on the board of New York Collaborates for Autism. Smigel’s activism has also led him to oversee the “Night of Too Many Stars” telethon, in which he gathers all of his showbiz friends — from Jon Stewart and Paul Rudd to Katy Perry and Amy Schumer — and puts on a show, all to raise money for autism-related education and support.


5. World leaders And Their Baths from The Dana Carvey Show

Speaking of fireworks, The Dana Carvey Show shone so brightly that it burned out after only seven episodes on ABC back in 1996. Smigel was brought in by head writer Louis C.K., who oversaw a staff that included such future superstars as Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Charlie Kaufman and Jon Glaser. Much like his days on SNL, Smigel used the short-lived show as an opportunity to pop up in the occasional sketch or two, like the one above in which he showed us the softer side of one of our favorite dictators.


4. Wonderman from TV Funhouse

Back in 2000, Comedy Central gave Smigel a showcase for his warped sensibility with TV Funhouse, a spin-off of his popular SNL segment that featured cartoons and live-action Pee-wee’s Playhouse-style bits. Hilarious and boundary-pushing, the show struggled to find an audience and was canceled after one season. But it gave us some memorable sketches, including Wonderman, a Superman spoof featuring a superhero who fights crime in the name of truth, justice and getting his secret identity laid.


3. Lookwell pilot starring Adam West

Perhaps the most famous pilot to never make it to series, Lookwell starred Adam West as a washed-up TV detective who decides to start solving cases in real life. Smigel created the show with friend and fellow SNL writer Conan O’Brien, and the cast includes In the Bedroom director Todd Field as West’s reluctant sidekick. Shot single camera in the style of contemporary shows like The Office and Arrested Development, the pilot was ahead of its time when it was made back in 1991. Lookwell did air once as a special, but as O’Brien joked, “[it] was the second-lowest rated television show of all time. It’s tied with a test pattern they show in Nova Scotia.” Word of mouth led to bootleg copies being circulated in the VHS era, and it eventually turned up on YouTube where it finally found an audience of cult comedy fans. And maybe that’s what was always supposed to happen, because years later Smigel and O’Brien admitted they had no idea what they were going to do for the second episode, much less an entire season.


2. Saturday TV Funhouse

No matter where Smigel has gone, he’s always found a way to color outside the lines. On SNL that meant his long-running and bitingly absurd “Saturday TV Funhouse” cartoons. The segments varied widely, parodying everything from Rankin/Bass Claymation specials to Disney movies to Saturday morning cartoons. One of the most popular bits from Funhouse was “The Ambiguously Gay Duo,” a recurring sketch about a crime fighting duo who seemed a bit too close. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


1. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

And then there is Smigel’s most popular creation, a cheap dog puppet with a cigar who will happily insult you to your face or hump your leg. His first appearance was way back in 1997, on a Late Night remote piece from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The character has since gone on to host a variety of shows and specials. Famous for his distinct accent, which Triumph insists is just how dogs sound, he has spent the better part of the last three decades insulting everyone from celebrities to politicians to 35-year-old Star Wars fans/virgins. Most recently he hosted Triumph’s Election Special 2016 for Hulu, in which he taught a bunch of millennials what a microaggression really sounds likes.

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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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