Robert Smigel (born February 7, 1960)[1] is an American actor, comedian, writer, director, producer, and puppeteer, known for his Saturday Night Live "TV Funhouse" cartoon shorts and as the puppeteer and voice behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. He also co-wrote the first two Hotel Transylvania films, You Don't Mess with the Zohan, and Leo, all starring Adam Sandler.

Robert Smigel
Smigel in 2008 with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and Doug Dale on the laptop
Born (1960-02-07) February 7, 1960 (age 64)
EducationCornell University
New York University (BA)
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • writer
  • director
  • producer
  • puppeteer
Years active1985–present
Notable work
SpouseMichelle Saks

Early life


Smigel was born in New York City, to Lucia and Irwin Smigel, an aesthetic dentist, innovator and philanthropist. He is Jewish and frequently went to Jewish summer camp.[2][3] He attended Cornell University, studying pre-dental,[4] and graduated from New York University's College of Arts and Science in 1983 with a degree in political science.[5][6]

Smigel began developing his comedic talent at The Players Workshop in Chicago, where he studied improvisation with Josephine Forsberg. Bob Odenkirk was a fellow student there. Smigel was also a member of the Chicago comedy troupe "All You Can Eat" in the early 1980s.



Smigel first established himself as a writer on Saturday Night Live by joining the writing staff when Lorne Michaels returned as executive producer for the 1985–1986 season. Smigel was hired after then-SNL producers Al Franken and Tom Davis saw Smigel in a Chicago sketch show.[7] Smigel was among the few writers who survived a purge of writers and cast at the conclusion of the "disappointing" 1985–1986 season. This is when Smigel began to write more memorable sketches, including one where host William Shatner urged worshipful attendees at a Star Trek convention to "get a life." Smigel rarely appeared on screen, though he was credited as a featured player in the early 1990s and played a recurring character in the Bill Swerski's Superfans sketches.

While on a writers' strike from Saturday Night Live following the 1987–88 season, Smigel wrote for an improvisational comedy revue in Chicago with fellow SNL writers Bob Odenkirk and Conan O'Brien called Happy Happy Good Show.[8]

Smigel co-wrote Lookwell with Conan O'Brien for NBC. The pilot never went to series, but it has become a cult hit and has screened live at "The Other Network", a festival of un-aired TV pilots produced by Un-Cabaret, featuring live and taped intros by Smigel. Smigel later became the first head writer at Late Night with Conan O'Brien, where he created numerous successful comedy bits, including one where Smigel performed only the lips of public figures which were superimposed on photos of the actual people. (This technique was pioneered on the Clutch Cargo cartoon series as a cost-saving measure, and was known as Syncro-Vox.)

In 1996, Smigel wrote and performed on the short-lived Dana Carvey Show, a primetime sketch comedy program on ABC. Despite its premature end, the show provided Smigel the opportunity to debut his first cartoon The Ambiguously Gay Duo.[9] Upon the show's cancellation, Smigel continued developing more cartoon ideas the following summer and would begin airing them on Saturday Night Live under the TV Funhouse banner. Smigel would later claim "My whole career came out of the impulse to do cartoons on The Dana Carvey Show."[10]

Robert Smigel (right) performing his puppet character, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, at 2008 Republican National Convention with Associated Press production assistant (left)

Smigel's most famous creation, however, would be the foul-mouthed puppet Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, who mercilessly mocks celebrities and others in the style of a Borscht Belt comedian. This character debuted on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in February 1997 and would continue to make appearances on the show, as well as others, for many years to come.

Smigel continued to establish himself on Saturday Night Live by producing short animated segments under the title TV Funhouse, which usually satirizes public figures and popular culture. It spawned a TV show on Comedy Central featuring a mix of puppets, animation, and short sketches, although only eight episodes were aired (during the winter of 2000–2001). Smigel occasionally appears in films (usually alongside SNL veterans such as Adam Sandler). According to interviews, Smigel helped punch up the scripts for Little Nicky and The Wedding Singer. Smigel acted alongside fellow SNL writer Bob Odenkirk in Wayne's World 2 as a nerd backstage at an Aerosmith concert. His contributions were uncredited.

In 2000, he voiced a sage bulldog named Mr. Beefy in Little Nicky. Smigel, along with Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow, wrote the script for the film You Don't Mess with the Zohan in which Smigel played Yosi, an Israeli electronics salesman. Smigel is also one of the executive producers of the film, which is a first for him despite his frequent collaborations with Sandler.

It was reported in 2006 that Smigel and Adam Sandler were working on an animated sitcom for Fox called Animals. Fox has not made any official statement regarding the show.[11] Additionally, Smigel played a gay mailman in the Adam Sandler film I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Yari the Mechanic in the "Mister Softee" episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

He voiced Ray and a parody of the Star Wars character, Emperor Palpatine, in the first episode of Robot Chicken: Star Wars, as well as the monster 100 in the episode of the same name of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Currently living in New York, he co-wrote and co-executive produced the films Hotel Transylvania (2012) and Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015), in which he voiced Marty, a fake version of Dracula, and Harry Three-Eye, respectively. In the fifth season of the FX show, Louie, Smigel received a story credit on the episode "Cop Story", as a similar incident as to what appears in the show actually happened to him, down to the cop crying in his apartment while Smigel went out, found the missing gun and carried it home, terrified that anyone would notice. Michael Rapaport's character wasn't based on the man Smigel knew, however, since all Smigel ever told Louis C.K. about was the gun itself.[12]

Smigel created, wrote, executive produced, and starred as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in The Jack and Triumph Show, alongside Jack McBrayer in 2015. It was announced in January 2016 that Smigel would be starring as Triumph in Triumph's Election Special 2016 on Hulu the following February.[13]

In September 2020, after being brought on to develop the project in 2019, Fox announced that Smigel would executive produce Let's Be Real — a one-off adaptation of the French satirical series Les Guignols.[14]

On June 16, 2022, Smigel was arrested for unlawful entry of the Longworth House Office Building in Washington, D.C, along with eight other individuals associated with The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.[15] CBS released a statement saying that “Their interviews at the Capitol were authorized and pre-arranged through Congressional aides of the members interviewed," and that "After leaving the members’ offices on their last interview of the day, the production team stayed to film stand-ups and other final comedy elements in the halls when they were detained by Capitol Police.” Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson accused Smigel of "insurrection" and that it was "exactly like what happened" in apparent reference to the 2021 United States Capitol attack.[16] Stephen Colbert addressed the incident in his monologue, stating that Smigel had committed "First-Degree Puppetry" and that "Drawing any equivalence between rioters storming our Capitol to prevent the counting of electoral ballots and a cigar-chomping toy dog is a shameful and grotesque insult to the memory of everyone who died.” The United States Capitol Police released a statement saying that “This is an active criminal investigation, and may result in additional criminal charges after consultation with the U.S. Attorney.”[17] On July 19, it was announced no charges would be filed.[18]

Personal life


Smigel has a wife, who was a lighting technician for the theater in Chicago presenting the comedy troupe All You Can Eat and the Temple of Dooom[19] that he joined, later a comedy writer[20] Michelle,[21] and three children.[citation needed]

Michelle and Robert serve on the board of NEXT for AUTISM, formerly New York Collaborates for Autism, a non-profit organization founded in 2003 to address the needs of autistic individuals and their families, as their eldest child has autism.[22] Smigel created the Night of Too Many Stars, a biannual celebrity fundraiser to benefit autism education.[23] He won a writing Emmy for the 2012 broadcast of Night of Too Many Stars.[24]

Recurring characters on SNL

  • Carl Wollarski, from "Bill Swerski's Superfans"
  • Hank Fielding, with "The Moron's Perspective" on Weekend Update
  • One of the Hub's Gyros employees (aka the "You like-ah the Juice?" guys)
  • Avi, the "Sabra Price is Right" announcer
  • Bighead, in "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" cartoons

Celebrity impressions


Recurring characters on Late Night with Conan O'Brien

  • Triumph the Insult Comic Dog
  • "Clutch Cargo" celebrity interviews (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Don King, Bob Dole, etc.)
  • One of the "Nicknames for Conan" guys (aka the "Conan the Barbarian" guys)
  • One of the "Ameri-clan" guys (with Doug Dale, Louis C.K. and Dino Stamatopoulos)
  • Voice of "The Late Night Emergency Guest" mannequin
  • Gibberish Speaking Ronald Reagan on the Phone
  • Ira, Conan's publicist




Year Title Role Notes
1993 Wayne's World 2 Concert Nerd
1995 Billy Madison Mr. Oblaski
1996 Happy Gilmore IRS Agent
1998 Tomorrow Night Mail Room Guy with Glasses
The Wedding Singer Andre
2000 Little Nicky Mr. Beefy Voice only
2002 Punch-Drunk Love Walter the Dentist
2007 I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry Mailman
2008 You Don't Mess with the Zohan Yosi Also writer and producer
2011 Jack and Jill Executive producer and writer of "Dunkaccino"
2012 Hotel Transylvania Fake Dracula, Marty Voice only
Also writer and executive producer
This Is 40 Barry
2015 Pixels White House Reporter #2
Hotel Transylvania 2 Marty, Harry Three-Eye, Navigator Voice only
Also writer and executive producer
2016 The Do-Over Doctor
2017 Too Funny to Fail Himself Documentary
2018 The Week Of ER Doctor Also writer and director
2019 Marriage Story Mediator
2020 The King of Staten Island Male Pharmacy Owner
2022 Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm Fraptaculan Robert Voice only
2023 Leo Miniature Horse, Drone, Old Lizard #1, Old Lizard #3 Voice only
Also writer and director[25]
2024 Between the Temples Rabbi Bruce


Year Title Role Notes
1985–2013 Saturday Night Live Bighead (The Ambiguously Gay Duo segment), Lorne Michaels (The Anatominals Show segment), Elephant Man Bones (The Michael Jackson Show segment), Various Also writer, producer
1988 Superman 50th Anniversary Special Brainwave
1991 Lookwell Television pilot; co-writer
1993–2009 Late Night with Conan O'Brien Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Voice; also writer and producer
1995 Howie Mandel's Sunny Skies Phillip 1 episode
1996 The Dana Carvey Show Various Also writer
1999 LateLine Pearce Dummy Episode: "Pearce on Conan"
2000 ShortCuts Clive Barnes Episode: "Food"
2000–2001 TV Funhouse Fogey, Xabu, Rocky, Terance, Wonderman / Henry Moore (Wonderman segment), Narrator (Wonderman and Mnemonics: Your Dear, Dear Friend segments), Various Voice; also creator, writer, and producer
2002 It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Voice; Television film
2003–2007 Crank Yankers Lawyer, Samir, John Tierney Voice; 3 episodes
2003–2017 Night of Too Many Stars Himself / Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Television specials; also writer and executive producer
2004 Space Ghost Coast to Coast Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Voice, episode: "Dreams"
2005 Arrested Development Motherboy Member Episode: "Motherboy XXX"
2007 Robot Chicken: Star Wars Palpatine Parody, Ray Voice
2008 Lewis Black's Root of All Evil Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Voice, episode: "NRA vs PETA"
2009–2010 The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Voice, 3 episodes
2009 SpongeBob SquarePants Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Voice, episode: "SpongeBob's Truth or Square"
2010 Aqua Teen Hunger Force One Hundred Voice, episode: "One Hundred"
2011 Curb Your Enthusiasm Yari Episode: "Mister Softee"
2011–2016 Conan Various 11 episodes
2012–2022 Bob's Burgers Yuli the Security Guard Voice; recurring role
2013 The Aquabats! Super Show! Krampus Voice, episode: "Christmas with the Aquabats!"
2015 The Jack and Triumph Show Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Voice; also creator, writer, and executive producer
Louie Episode: "Cop Story"; story
The Jim Gaffigan Show Cory Episode: "Red Velvet If You Please"
2016 Triumph's Election Special 2016 Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Voice, television special; also writer and executive producer
Portlandia Jarvis Episode: "Lance Is Smart"
Triumph's Summer Election Special 2016 Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Voice, television special; also writer and executive producer
Triumph's Election Watch 2016 Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Voice, miniseries; also writer and executive producer
2018 New Girl Chaplain Episode: "The Curse of the Pirate Bride"
2019 The Masked Singer Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Voice, episode: "Triumph Over Masks"; guest panelist
2021 Let's Be Real Writer/executive producer
2023 White House Plumbers Inmate Friedman Episode: "True Believers"
What We Do in the Shadows Alexander Episode: "The Campaign"

Music videos

Year Song Title Role Artist
2005 "Ass Like That" Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Eminem

Further reading



  1. ^ "Smigel, Robert 1960-". Cengage.
  2. ^ Rabin, Nathan (June 2, 2008). "Robert Smigel". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  3. ^ Bloom, Nate (July 18, 2008). "Jewish Stars". Cleveland Jewish News.
  4. ^ Castoro, Rocco (October 1, 2010). "Robert Smigel". Vice. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  5. ^ "Rolling Stone Magazine: Robert Smigel's Dog Days". Archived from the original on February 16, 2010. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  6. ^ Hollander, Jason. "Live From New York, It's…". NYU Alumni Magazine.
  7. ^ Rabin, Nathan (August 4, 2004). "Robert Smigel | Interview". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on December 9, 2008. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  8. ^ "Happy? Good? Conan's big Chicago show". Retrieved January 22, 2016.
  9. ^ "Animation: TV & Broadcast – The Dana Carvey Show". J.J. Sedelmaier Productions. 2008. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
  10. ^ Heisler, Steve Interview – Dana Carvey and Robert Smigel The A.V. Club (June 15, 2009). Retrieved on 5-09-10.
  11. ^ West, Kelly (October 2, 2006). "Smigel And Sandler Team Up For A New Fox Animated Series". Cinemablend. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
  12. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (May 28, 2015). "How 'Louie' got a shorter season because Louis C.K. got high". Archived from the original on May 29, 2015.
  13. ^ Blistein, Jon (January 21, 2016). "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to Host Hulu Election Special". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
  14. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (September 15, 2020). "Fox Sets Election-Themed Puppet Special 'Let's Be Real' From Robert Smigel Based On French Format". Deadline. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  15. ^ Haring, Bruce (June 17, 2022). "'Late Show' Staffers Detained By U.S. Capitol Police, Including Robert Smigel, Voice Of Triumph, The Insult Comic Dog". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 17, 2022.
  16. ^ Zitser, Joshua (June 18, 2022). "Tucker Carlson accuses Stephen Colbert crew of 'insurrection' after they were arrested while filming a comedy segment at the Capitol". INSIDER. Retrieved June 21, 2022.
  17. ^ Weprin, Alex (June 20, 2022). "Stephen Colbert Addresses Arrest of Triumph and Crew at U.S. Capitol: "This Was First-Degree Puppetry"". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 21, 2022.
  18. ^ Balsamo, Michael (July 19, 2022). "No charges for 'Late Show' crew arrested on Capitol Hill". Associated Press.
  19. ^ "Maynard Keenan, Sarah Silverman on Favorite 'Mr. Show' Bits". Rolling Stone. November 3, 2015.
  20. ^ "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Can't Stop Photo-Bombing Live TV". January 19, 2024.
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Board of Directors". NYCA. Archived from the original on November 11, 2013.
  23. ^ "At autism fund-raiser, too many funny 'Stars'". USA TODAY. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  24. ^ "Big Wins and Brief Moments at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards - Los Angeles Magazine". Los Angeles Magazine. September 16, 2013. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  25. ^ "Everything You Need to Know About Leo". Tudum. August 23, 2023. Retrieved October 12, 2023.