It warms the heart to see a positive story about a dog in Toronto. After all, the last one didn't turn out so well:We're acting like doggone wussies
Conan O'Brien is probably glad to be leaving Canada.
And, really, who can blame him?
After bringing his late-night show to Toronto this week — something no American television host had previously done — the gangly host with a sense of the absurd was treated to the ultimate absurdity: A nation deeply enraged by a hand puppet.
At the fourth and final taping of Late Night with Conan O'Brien yesterday, there was more thundering applause, breathless laughter and relentless love.
But, clearly, O'Brien was not firing on all comedic cylinders thanks to the controversy of the previous night. That's when Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, a vulgar and recurring character on the show, "pooped" on Quebec with a virulent assault on French Canadians.
"So you're French and Canadian, yes?" Triumph asked one passerby. "You're obnoxious and dull."
"I can tell you're French, you know," he told another. "You have that proud expression, that superior look, and I can smell your crotch from here."
"Are you a separatist?" he asked a rotund man. "Maybe you should try separating yourself from doughnuts first."
As one might expect, O'Brien didn't broach the sensitive issue during yesterday's final taping, except for a passing reference.
"For those of you who don't know me, I'm the guy who was hired to make Don Cherry look good," O'Brien said at the start of his monologue, triggering a laugh from the crowd who arrived to see actors Jim Carrey, Eric McCormack and the Barenaked Ladies.
I started yesterday's column with: "It's a shame this must end." Today's could have started: "It's a shame this must end this way."
So much effort went into this project. NBC flew in a crew of 114. The network also hired 100 local production specialists.
Thousands of hours went into the planning and execution. More than 50,000 fans applied to get tickets. Hundreds more waited in line every morning this week.
According to organizers, O'Brien's visit to Toronto has been covered by ABC, CNN International, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Daily News, Reuters India, South China Morning Post, People magazine, The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today and the Chicago Sun Times.
And, let's not forget, $1 million in taxpayers' money was used to help finance Conan's Great Canadian Adventure.
Was it worth it? Or did a rubber dog destroy all of this in seven minutes? Personally, I'm outraged, disappointed and embarrassed. But at the reaction.
Unlike the NDP's Alexa McDonough — who called Thursday's satirical sketch "vile and vicious" — I can't believe this country was successfully baited by a damn hand puppet.
Were Triumph's comments offensive? Were they outrageous? Were they insensitive? No. Why? This just in: Triumph isn't real. He's not a politician. He's stock character in a late-night television show that says and behaves in a deliberately provocative way.
If you watched the sketch in question, you may have also heard him question Ricky Martin's sexuality. And imply that Michael Jackson is a pedophile. People, he's not called Triumph the Friendly Lapdog.
The politicians wringing their hands yesterday, condemning the segment as racist, demanding to know why public money was used to subsidize such "hatred" and "filth" should start watching satirical comedies.
From South Park to The Daily Show, from Chris Rock to Howard Stern, it is standard practice to draw targets on delicate subjects. Triumph went for a nerve. We gave him the reaction every comedian dreams of getting. The only notable thing about his attack was that it became notable.
If you missed it, you may never see the episode in its entirety again. The segment was excised from yesterday's rebroadcast on Star! in a move that can only be described as cowardly and, well, hopelessly predictable.
Because, in the end, the reaction to Triumph says more about Canada than America.