Perhaps they are kowtowing to the liberal-media agenda or being spurred by the success of Brokeback Mountain. Whatever the case, NBC's Saturday Night Live is letting a couple of homosexual superheroes host the show this weekend. Known as "the Ambiguously Gay Duo," Ace and Gary (voiced by Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell) will take the reins tomorrow night when SNL airs a collection of the "Saturday TV Funhouse" shorts. Writer, producer, comedian and alter-ego of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Robert Smigel is the man behind the special and the animated segments, which began appearing on the late-night series back in 1996. Smigel spoke with TVGuide.com earlier this week to give us a little insight into his twisted cartoon creations and to dispel some rumors.
TVGuide.com: What were your favorite cartoon shows growing up, and which particular ones inspired "Saturday TV Funhouse"?
Robert Smigel: Well, it's interesting. I wasn't into the superhero stuff. That's something I researched after I had the idea for Ace and Gary. I was into talking animals, which you could've probably guessed from Triumph, and I was into The Flintstones that was the first cartoon I could ever draw. I've always loved Bugs Bunny to me that was always one of the higher art forms. It never relied on references to please adults. A lot of current cartoons have to do pop-culture stuff and little winks for the adults. Once they started making those Animaniacs things, it started going in that direction, but maybe it's passing now. Now, you see SpongeBob and that's very pure, likes Bugs Bunny. It's funny to adults and it isn't referential. It's really about the characters' behavior. I love SpongeBob.
TVGuide.com: When you first brought it to him, was Lorne Michaels on board with your idea of putting cartoon segments on Saturday Night Live?
Smigel: It was the fastest deal I've ever struck.
TVGuide.com: Well, I guess they kind of did "animated "segments before if you count "Mr. Bill."
Smigel: It's amazing. When the show has its retrospectives, Mr. Bill isn't really a part of them. I find it interesting, because as much as I love Saturday Night Live and grew up with it, nothing got the crowd excited like Mr. Bill. It was a phenomenon that history hasn't given its due. It was like Steve Martin's appearances back then. My cartoons can't compare with Mr. Bill on the level of excitement they generate, but they have the same advantage in that they are throwing something completely different at the audience.
TVGuide.com: Is there any "Saturday TV Funhouse" creation that has a special place in your heart?
Smigel: My personal favorite is the Mr. T cartoon. It's just the one that makes me laugh the hardest, because you're rooting for a guy who's doing something ridiculous. Anytime I can create that kind of ambiguity, it kills me. The Ex-Presidents do that a lot of times. There's one we did during the Clinton scandal where everybody in Congress, Democrats and Republicans, were all quoting the Constitution for their own benefit. So we had the Constitution bubble over with rage, burst out of its case and start attacking people. So the Ex-Presidents have to kill it and at the end there's the line, "The Constitution is dead! Democracy is saved!" I think that one might make this weekend's show, but we've done more Ex-Presidents than any other "Funhouse" cartoon, so I'm not sure.
TVGuide.com: There are more episodes with the Ex-Presidents than the Ambiguously Gay Duo?
Smigel: Ex-Presidents sustained longer. Here's the thing Ace and Gary were a huge hit and I was offered to write a movie, but I thought they were kind of one-dimensional. Then I actually wrote a screenplay with Adam McKay for an Ex-Presidents movie, because those guys are based on real people that are at least two-dimensional, maybe even two-and-a-half. The thing is, in later Ex-Presidents [segments], I got into the details. Reagan and Carter became a comedy act the kick-ass evil empire Republican and the wimpy why-can't-we-negotiate sidekick, whom Reagan constantly calls a f--. Meanwhile, George Bush, for no reason, has an incredible sex life. People always ask me, "Do you like the freedom of cartoons, that you can jump from place to place within a story." I'm like, "No, I like that I can show Barbara and George having sex." In any other medium it would be disturbing, but in cartoon form it's just adorable.
TVGuide.com: It's been rumored that you might take over Conan O'Brien's spot on the NBC late-night schedule when he moves to the Tonight Show. How much validity is there to the rumor?
Smigel: That's the funniest, most ridiculous rumor. I have no idea how that got out there.
TVGuide.com: So you wouldn't be interested in that job?
Smigel: No. I found out about that on Wikipedia. Somebody said to me, "Hey, have you looked at your Wikipedia bio? It says you're rumored to be taking over for Conan." I'm like, "OK, I'm going to be about 50 when Conan moves over."
TVGuide.com: Maybe you can do the show as Triumph?
Smigel: Well, that's not the rumor not that that would work, either. You need a guy like Conan who can be in an elevator with a stranger, strike up a conversation and make them laugh. You don't need a guy like me who feels safe curled up in his office squeezing his Kermit the Frog stress toy. By the way, that's not a euphemism for my d---.