Visit by rude ‘Conan’ puppet a triumph for the Wiener’s Circle
BY MIKE THOMAS Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org June 19, 2012 8:30PM
Updated: August 23, 2012 9:54AM
Emmy-winning comedy sage Robert Smigel calls it “a perfect poopstorm” of place, people and puppet.
The place: the Wiener’s Circle, Chicago’s infamously abusive hot dog hotspot in Lincoln Park.
The people: its patron-pummeling employees (“Order now or get the f--- out!”) and “30 Rock” star Jack McBrayer.
The puppet: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, one of Smigel’s most enduring and oddly endearing creations. Whether he’s mocking becostumed “Star Wars” fans or berating contestants on “American Idol,” the plastic pooch is sure to cause a stir.
They all converged in an outrageously funny and filthy sketch that aired Thursday on TBS during late-night jester Conan O’Brien’s four-day residency at the Chicago Theatre.
Since then the bit — whose location was suggested by some of O’Brien’s Chicago-rooted writers — has gone viral, already ranking among the top video clips of all time on the “Conan” YouTube channel with more than a million hits.
After the genteel, Southern-bred McBrayer absorbs a flurry of slings and arrows while nervously placing an order, he weakly vows to return “with a friend, and you will be very sorry.”
And they are, once Triumph pops in.
The cigar-chomping wag delights — as he has on O’Brien’s shows and elsewhere since 1997 — in finding targets “for me to poop on!”
Or puke on.
At the Wiener’s Circle, after verbally sparring with and gleefully trashing feisty blue-and-green-haired manager Poochie Jackson — “Nothing gets past you, especially carbohydrates!” he zings — the caustic canine unleashes chunky brown streams of projectile vomit (mostly vegetable soup) on unsuspecting customers.
While Wiener’s Circle co-owner Barry Nemerow says Smigel asked his permission for the upchuck stunt before it happened, assuring him the mess would be tidied, Nemerow told none of his employees. And the patrons, including an acutely perturbed-looking dude, were “definitely unsuspecting.”
A “Conan” spokesman declined to elaborate on the matter.
Nemerow, who opened the establishment in 1983 with a partner, says a “Conan” field producer phoned him beforehand to schedule the visit. After eight or nine crew members arrived with two cameras to set up around 10 p.m. on June 8, Nemerow stood “in the background” and watched from a nearby driveway. Filming lasted from around midnight to 4 a.m.
“I didn’t even know Jack was actually coming,” says Nemerow, recalling the former Second City standout’s arrival via limo. “And I didn’t know for sure the dog was even coming. They sprang it on me last minute.”
But he was happy to oblige. Along with the three-month-old truTV reality series “Wiener’s Circle,” this “Conan” exposure has given the long-heralded eatery a major profile boost. Since the segment aired, according to Nemerow, the tiny joint has been more packed than usual.
Nighttime, especially, is boom time. That’s when boozy noshing surges and the vitriol really flies — from both sides of the counter.
Jackson, a 14-year veteran, says Triumph proved unexpectedly formidable, adding, “He gave me a run for my money. I like Triumph.”
Smigel was “the one I wanted to kick in the b---s,” she adds, “‘cause it’s his damn voice.”
That said, she’d like to do it again.
“Poochie is up for a rematch,” her promoter Nemerow confirms.
As ever, there’s only one rule: no hitting above the belt.