1. He wasn’t very funny at the start
Triumph’s first appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien had him mocking the celebrity guest of the night. Robert Smigel, the humorist and Triumph’s “puppeteer” was positioned out of sight behind a mock stage, rendering Triumph mostly immobile. The jokes weren’t bad -- he started off with the now-famous “for me to poop on” bit and went from there -- but the whole setup seemed weirdly limiting. Insult comedy works best when the comic either jumps rapidly from subject to subject, cutting down his targets swiftly and moving on, or when he has a long time to build his insults out of the ruins of a single target’s ego. These early segments are heavy with potential, which is likely why they kept bringing the character back, but they really needed Triumph to get outside the studio.
2. Everyone ignores Robert Smigel
There is very little that’s subtle about Triumph. He’s a crappy hand puppet with a loud, heavily-accented voice who is there to rip you to shreds. He gets right in your face, so it’s easy to see why you’d concentrate on him for the duration of your interaction, but almost everybody seems to totally discount the guy voicing him. He’s right there!
Joe DeMartino is a Connecticut-based writer who grew up wanting to be Ted Williams, but you would not BELIEVE how hard it is to hit a baseball, so he gave that up because he writes words OK. He talks about exploding suns, video games, karaoke, and other cool shit at his blog. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweeted at @thetoycannon. He writes about sports elsewhere. The sports sells better.