Robert Smigel Talks Triumph, Adam Sandler-Bob Barker, And How To Attend Jon Stewart’s Last ‘Daily Show’

Senior Entertainment Writer
03.10.15
Robert Smigel

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This past Sunday, Night of Too Many Stars aired on Comedy Central in support of raising money for families caring for children with autism. Founded by Robert Smigel – who has a 17-year-old son with autism – this year’s event had its highest profile thanks to some well-crafted viral videos, most notably one that featured Adam Sandler and Bob Barker in yet another fistfight. We spoke to Smigel about that video and the behind the scenes goings-on of Sunday’s show.

Smigel also talked about his new Adult Swim sitcom, The Jack and Triumph Show, which in the last episode found Triumph the Insult Comic Dog hanging out with Los Angeles paparazzi and somehow getting an ethics lecture from them. Also, with a plethora of new Star Wars movies coming out, how tempting is it to Smigel to try and recreate Triumph’s infamous Attack of the Clones takedown?

(Note: Many of the charity contests for A Night of Too Many Stars are still ongoing, including being drawn into an episode of The Simpsons, two tickets to Jon Stewart’s last The Daily Show, and having Judd Apatow direct your own personal Vine.)

When we spoke last week, you were worried that the word on Night of Too Many Stars wasn’t out there enough, then that Adam Sandler-Bob Barker video hit and the show was literally everywhere.

Yeah, it blew up. That was amazing to have on the YouTube homepage. I was over the moon, I couldn’t believe we had that kind of advertising on YouTube.

You had to know that video would do well. People love Sandler and Bob Barker together.

Some people just wanted me to tease it, but I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to rob people of taking in the whole experience at once. And the Sandler piece was just perfectly edited and I just didn’t want people to watch it any other way but all at once.

And it worked.

I’ve always been mystified that I get all these friends of mine that are enormous stars and they come to Beacon and they score really big. And then the ratings come in and I hear, “Oh, boy. Sorry. You were up against the finale of Flavor of Love.”

And now you had The Walking Dead.

Yes, so I figured let’s just topload 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. because we’re going to have The Walking Dead and The Good Wife at the same time. I have no idea what the rating will be, but I was happy this was the first year we trended on Twitter for the entire show.

When I first watched the Sandler-Barker video, I was thinking, Oh no, why is Bob Barker in the hospital? You fooled me.

Oh, that’s so great! It fooled you! Some people did tell me they were fooled and they felt bad for Barker. To me, that’s tremendous that it made it more of a surprise.

He is in his ’90s and sometimes people in their ’90s go to the hospital. “Oh, he has to do this from his hospital room, that’s sad.”

Right! Exactly! Oh, that’s fantastic.

Do you have any numbers on how much you raised?

By Sunday night, by the end of the show we had raised $4 million overall. This year we have these amazing contests that we are still pushing and it’s going to go for the next month or so. There’s a contest to be drawn into The Simpsons. It’s like a walk on role, but it’s cartoon. To me that’s an incredible one, The Simpsons have never done that. And the other enormous one is two tickets to the final The Daily Show, and he’ll meet you and all that. That’s the one that’s been tearing it up. And it’s not an auction; it’s a contest. People can enter and really have a chance, and it’s like a Kickstarter where you get different kinds of rewards. And Judd Apatow is going to direct someone’s Vine.

To limit Apatow to six seconds when his movies are usually two and a half hours is remarkable on its own.

I’m hoping Funny or Die will do a “making of” where Judd will have a million outtakes.

I don’t even think that will be a joke. I think he will have one million outtakes.

[Laughs] I hope so! I hope he out-Judds himself.

You were in This is 40, you speak from experience.

Absolutely. We’ve all been there. It’s so much fun and he gives you so much freedom to improvise yourself and I had the best time doing scenes with Paul Rudd … he’ll shout shit at you in the middle of the scene. Yeah, it’s definitely a unique process.

I’ve been enjoying The Jack and Triumph Show. I really liked the one with the paparazzi. Triumph gets a lecture in ethics from a guy in the paparazzi.

[Laughing] Right! He’s telling me how to behave while he’s stalking. “There’s a certain way to stalk, young man, and I will help you.” The amazing thing about that guy was that the story sort of came out of the Donald Sterling frame. But then, we do a bit with this guy, and it turns out he’s literally standing outside of V. Stiviano’s house.

Wait, that wasn’t planned?

That wasn’t planned! I know, it’s very tricky with that show because the scripted part is scripted, so you imagine everything is rigged.

I assumed the interaction wasn’t scripted, but I thought you went to her house on purpose.

Oh, no, he just made that choice. I always bring jokes – “taking a long hard look at your life” I had written in advance – but there’s other stuff that’s off the cuff. I knew this would happen, some people would immediately reject the idea of the multi-cam.

If you watch a full episode, you get used to it and you get the layout of what you guys are doing with the live audience and the pre-taped segments.

There’s nothing I can do about the baggage of doing good remotes, but that’s the baggage – there are going to be people who are only going to compare it to what I’ve done on Conan. And my response is, why don’t you compare it to multi-cam sitcoms? That’s what we’re going for.

The format reminds me of the early Seinfeld episodes, where it’s framed around Jerry’s stand-up act. And this is framed around Triumph’s remotes.

And some people are hoping that if multi-cam, if people get more used to it, I wouldn’t have to do remotes every week, just like Seinfeld phased out its comedy. But, I like having both in there.

And it’s nice hearing a real audience laugh.

Well, I’m glad to hear that you understand it’s a real audience. It’s actually fantastic to do it; that’s how Triumph started on Conan – he showed up in the middle of the show to make fun of the first guest and he was already the most popular character before we ever went into the field. And, yeah, I’m glad to hear you say that because the other thing I see sometimes online are people who just say the show has a laugh track and laugh tracks equal shit. And it’s not a laugh track!

And it looks like you’re feeding off the audience.

Absolutely. And you’ll see on Friday it’s a funny premise about how Siri is always so good humored when you ask something weird and Triumph is determined to break Siri, and I’m clearly fucking around and expanding the scene.

One of Triumph’s most popular segments was in a line for Attack of the Clones. There’s now a Star Wars movie coming out every year for the considerable future.

[Laughs] Yes, and I never attempted to top the one I did. And now we’re going back to the Mark Hamill Star Wars, I’m tempted. I don’t know. That’s one I’ve never wanted to touch.

We have The Force Awakens, then the spinoff movie, then Episode VIII. There’s going to be one waiting for you every year.

I know that. It’s true. I don’t know, we’ll see if we’re motivated and we have something worth doing.

Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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