Late Night With Conan O'Brien has been a comedy staple of night owls since 1993. The main man behind the show was practically a comedic veteran upon its premiere, having written and produced work for The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live in the 1980s and early 1990s (all of this before celebrating his 30th birthday!). Since the very first season of Late Night, it's proven to be one of the most entertaining shows on television at any timeslot, and has enjoyed more than its fair share of memorable moments and great characters.
One of the show's most recognizable regulars is Triumph, a rubber dog puppet armed only with a huge golden bow tie, a cigar, and a microphone. Created, voiced, and controlled by Robert Smigel (a long-time contributor to the show, and a former writer for SNL), Triumph routinely roasts everyone in sight---the guests, the audience, and Conan himself---and adds a certain air of unpredictability whenever he makes an appearance. Although there's no doubt that Triumph is a bit of a one-trick pony, he's almost something of a cultural icon for those who watch TV at ungodly hours. Needless to say, he's became more of a permanent character since his first appearance on the show, and this release chronicles some of his best moments over the past several years.
For all intents and purposes, this DVD is very much a "love it or hate it" affair. If you're not a fan of the profane puppet, this compilation won't change your mind. On the other hand, fans of Triumph will find this release a veritable treasure trove of comedy, even if it proves to be too much in one sitting. The main program (entitled "Classic Poop") runs for just over an hour, containing seven of the best Triumph shorts (each running roughly ten minutes apiece). These shorts include "The Westminster Dog Show I", "Triumph on Hollywood Squares", "Triumph Meets Bon Jovi", "The Westminster Dog Show II", "The Star Wars Premiere" (a personal favorite), "The 2002 MTV Video Music Awards", and "Triumph in Quebec". Although I'd have preferred to see these in their uncut form (they appear just as they did during the original broadcasts), at least they're still intact with individual introductions by Conan. From top to bottom, they're a consistently entertaining group of shorts, offering tons of great improvised comedy and guest appearances (including Moby, Eminem, Kathie Lee Gifford, several characters from The Sopranos (seen above), and a much larger Al Roker, among others).
In most cases---as with any other brand of comedy---the success of the short depends on the people Triumph preys on. Simply put, the best interaction is with those who are willing to laugh at themselves (The Sopranos guys, the Star Wars fans, etc.). Robert Smigel does an excellent job of keeping things entertaining (the bulk of which is ad-libbed), and his improvisational skill really makes for some great comedy. While the back-to-back presentation of these shorts can wear a little thin after a while (they're also simply "cut and pasted" together rather than presented as a coherent program), these are great little remedies for any bout with boredom. It's a well-rounded 60 minutes of classic material, and very deserving of its own release on DVD. Brought to us by Lions Gate Home Entertainment, The Best of Triumph has a lot of bang for the buck, featuring a decent technical presentation and more bonus features than you can shake a cigar at. NOTE: This DVD also shares the same release date as the Conan O'Brien 10th Anniversary Special DVD, and a review link has been provided below. With that said, let's see how this one stacks up:
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality:
Presented in its original 4:3 fullscreen aspect ratio, The Best of Triumph looks about as good as fans could hope for. Clarity and sharpness are at or above the level of the original television broadcasts (although some earlier segments and behind-the-scenes footage are a little rougher), and colors generally appear bold and bright. While there was a bit of edge enhancement detected (a little more noticeable in close-up shots), the overall quality of this transfer is perfectly fine. The audio (presented in Dolby Surround) also shares the same above-average quality as the video itself, and does its job just fine. You're not likely to use this disc as demo material anytime soon, but it should easily satisfy any respectable fan of TV on DVD.
Menu Design & Presentation:
Featuring colorful and fun menus, the presentation for The Best of Triumph is well-executed. The basic layout is simple, offering smooth navigation for the main and sub-menus alike. The 60 minute main program is divided into 9 chapters (one for each of the seven shorts, bookended by a new Introduction and the obligatory End Credits), and no layer change was detected. Bonus feature sub-sections are simply presented, and also include a handy "Play All" option. Surprisingly, subtitles are also included, but only in Spanish. NOTE: The packaging was not on hand for this review.
Broken into two separate sections ("Extra Poop" and "More Poop Than Is Necessary"), there's a lot of bonus material to go through...and most of it is really great stuff! The former section features its own little sub-divisions---the first being "Triumph At Home"---and kicks things off with Triumph's First Appearance (4 minutes). While it's not nearly as funny as the canine's later outings (serving more as a vehicle to establish his now famous catchphrase that I am detertmined to complete this review without actually typing), this first appearance is a logical inclusion and a nice little extra to have on board. Next up, we have a Guest Insult Montage (10 minutes), a highlight reel of clips from the studio that includes appearances by William Shatner, Fabio, Jerry Springer, and many more. Also, we're treated to the infamous Pets.com Press Conference (10 minutes), the dramatic climax of Triumph's legal battle with the (now-defunct) Pets.com sock puppet.
The next section, "Triumph On Location", starts off with both parts of the American Idol: Hawaii Auditions (18 minutes total), featuring a great collection of young hopefuls and even Jesus. Next up, we have a highlight reel of Triumph's appearance at The 2001 MTV Video Music Awards (5 minutes), which includes a classic interaction with Jennifer Lopez. Also here is Triumph's Tour of Hollywood (9 minutes) and the third visit to The Westminster Dog Show (5 minutes). The final section of "Extra Poop" is "Triumph Productions", which includes A Couple Of Mutts: the Conan/Triumph Sitcom (6 minutes). This brief "pilot episode" features the two as roommates, as well as a guest appearance by Dick Van Patten. Also included is The Triumph Christmas Special (6 minutes) and---last but not least---8 Nipples, Triumph's parody of the Eminem film (in response to their "altercation" at the 2002 VMAs).
The second (and much shorter) section, "More Poop Than Is Necessary", really lives up to its name. To start things off, we have a series of Outtakes from the Bon Jovi, Star Wars, American Idol and Quebec shorts (about 4 minutes each), and it's easy to see why this material was cut from the finished product. The final sub-section, entitled "I Keed", includes the music video of the same name (4 minutes) and a TV Spot for his full-length album, "Come Poop With Me". Altogether, it's a pretty broad cross-section of bonus material for a "one-trick pony", making this well-stocked compilation a must-have for any fan of the cigar chomping canine.
Essentially, the title of this compilation really lives up to its name: it's a fairly complete collection of all things Triumph. If you love him, you'll love this DVD. If not, look elsewhere. If you're new to the character (or even the show) or just a casual fan, I'd definitely suggest a rental. For everyone else, this one's an easy recommendation, especially considering the decent technical presentation and great selection of bonus material. While it may not be something you'll watch regularly, it's a great package that works best in small doses. Overall, The Best of Triumph features a nice amount of comedy for a very reasonable price...and what more could you ask for? Recommended.
Other Links of Interest
The Official Site of Come Poop With Me
Robert Smigel Fimography at IMDb
Conan O'Brien Fimography at IMDb
DVD Talk Review of Conan's 10th Anniversary Special
Randy Miller III is a insult comic art instructor hailing from Harrisburg, PA. To fund his DVD viewing habits, he also works on freelance graphic design and illustration projects. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.