The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

pour moi a epuiser dessus
Who figured a silly-looking dog puppet with a vaguely Eastern European faux accent could stir up so much trouble? Triumph the Insult Comic Dog has brought down charges of racism and hatmongering after his antics in Quebec during a segment on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

I caught the segment, as I'm a big Triumph fan. I certainly thought it was one of the weaker efforts from the people behind Triumph. The language barrier was the main culprit, as it ruined the rapid-fire exchange between Triumph and victim that usually makes this humor work so well (I'm guessing the Triumph crew was surprised to run into so many Quebeckers who didn't speak English, otherwise they would have been able to piece together more and better segments with people who understood the insults). I did think the restaurant scene toward the end, with Triumph sniffing the bouquet of a French poodle, was good; and the streetsign-switching ("Rue des Pussies" and "Celine Dion Sucks Street") was funny.

Interestingly, the next night's Late Night episode didn't make any mention of the resulting controversy. There are any number of reasons for this: The show may have been taped before the news hit, there were legal issues to consider, etc. I'm betting they bring it up this week, maybe as early as tomorrow.

I think the key to the uproar is that the Canadian government paid the show a big chunk of money ($1 million Canadian, which equals something like $750,000-$800,000 American) to come to Toronto, as part of a boost to the city's image after last year's SARS scare hurt tourism. There was some grousing over that before the Triumph thing, especially from conservatives, who felt it was a waste of public funds. Pushing buttons in Quebec, a particularly sensitive area, was sure to ruffle feathers.

This isn't the first time Triumph has been a magnet for trouble. The Eminem thing is widely cited; even further back, Triumph attracted a frivolous lawsuit from the now-defunct He's a marked pooch!