Robert Smigel on Bringing ‘Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’ to the RNC and DNC for Hulu

Plus, the question his hilarious puppet wants to ask Donald Trump

In an unbelievable presidential election brimming with hilarious, incisive political comedy from late-night hosts and other comics, some of this year's best political satire came from Triumph's Election Special 2016. The special, which aired on Hulu in February and featured Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Robert Smigel's hilarious, cigar-puffing puppet creation, garnered an Emmy nomination for outstanding writing for a variety special.

Now, Smigel—along with Hulu and Funny or Die—is back with a second Hulu program, Triumph's Summer Election Special 2016, which debuted today on the streaming site. This time, Smigel brought the puppet, which first appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 1997 as a "one-off," to this summer's Republican and Democratic national conventions.

Smigel spoke with Adweek about who played ball at the conventions (and who didn't), what question Triumph would like to ask Donald Trump and the Triumph Super Bowl ad that almost was (but in the end wasn't).

Adweek: Triumph is almost two decades old now.

Robert Smigel: Ridiculous!

How are you still able to use the character? Doesn't NBC have intellectual property rights since he first appeared on Late Night?

It is weird. There were a lot of issues with that because I was sued by Pets.com. They wouldn't indemnify me, and then I gave up the ownership formally because my son had been diagnosed with autism and I said, "I am not going to spend the money defending myself." I knew it was a frivolous suit. I still was terrified of spending a lot of money on this. So my agent worked out a deal. What I really cared about most at the time was I just wanted to have the creative freedom to spin off Triumph if I ever wanted to, into anything. And so they would get a piece of it, but they couldn't make creative decisions. I just knew that there might be potential with Triumph, so we negotiated that. I did a comedy album, and then I've had many offers over the years to do movies and TV shows. And only in the last few years have I really dove in.

Have any brands ever expressed interest in working with Triumph?

There was one Quiznos Super Bowl offer, and then it sort of went away. And then there was something with the NFL that ended up not happening. I don't even know if I'm allowed to talk about it. But I would like to do that—I've never known how to market myself that way. But I don't feel like it would compromise Triumph, because basically he would whore himself out for anything. That wouldn't be part of the commercial, but that would be the subtext.

You also brought Triumph to the political conventions in 2004 and 2008. What it is about them that's such a great fit for Triumph?

Because they're authority figures, and it's the snobs against the slob. It's like Rodney [Dangerfield] in Caddyshack. I'm not comparing Triumph to Groucho Marx in any way other than just the basic construct, but the id versus the snooty. And it's gotten less snooty over the years. In the old days, the Republicans used to be scarier. When I went to George Bush's [convention] in 2004, they all wore costumes back then. That's disappeared. People do not dress themselves up like idiots at these conventions like they used to. But yeah, anytime you can go to anything that smells of a privileged class of people, it's a perfect scenario.

In both the Facebook Live video you shot and the special's first trailer with Bob Schieffer, Triumph seems to have a lot of interaction with news anchors this time around.