Otto Petersen

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Otto Petersen
Otto Petersen, Opie and Anthony's Traveling Virus Comedy Tour 2006.jpg
Birth name Otto Sol Petersen
Born (1960-07-29)July 29, 1960
Brooklyn, New York
Died April 13, 2014(2014-04-13) (aged 53)
Staten Island, New York
Medium Stand-up comedy
Film
Television
Years active 1970s–2014
Genres Ventriloquism, observational comedy, black comedy, prop comedy

Otto Sol Petersen (July 29, 1960 – April 13, 2014) was an American ventriloquist, comedian, and actor known for his act Otto and George, which he performed with his dummy George Dudley.[1] Petersen began performing with George as a street act in Manhattan and Brooklyn in the early 1970s. In the late 1970s the act moved into night clubs and began to evolve into an "X-rated" act.

Life and career[edit]

Petersen was born in Brooklyn, New York City, and raised in Staten Island.[2] Petersen began to perform as a ventriloquist when he was seven.[3] Among his influences during his early life was watching Paul Winchell and his dummies Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff.[4][5] He bought his first dummy at a magic shop in Times Square in 1974 for $350.[2]

Petersen dropped out of high school and became a street performer at thirteen,[3][6] initially in the New York City area, the college circuit, and at gigs in the Catskills.[7][8] His act included insults and nursery rhymes with humorous and gross alterations.[9] In 1976, John Lennon gave him $2 after watching him perform in Central Park with Yoko Ono.[6] In May 1977, his original dummy named George, which he had used for two years, was stolen when someone had taken a duffel bag with George inside from his car. He had purchased it from a man in Madison, Wisconsin in 1975 for $300 which was made from basswood. Peterson then used a replacement that a friend had made named Phil.[8] The stolen George was the third puppet named George that Petersen had used. The first was stabbed by an audience member after the dummy called him ugly; the second was sold for use in a production of Annie.[3][9] In 1980, the 22-year-old Petersen was named Best Novelty Act at the inaugural New York Nightclub Showcase Awards held at Good Times, a club in New York City.[7] By this time, his dummy was renamed George, and Petersen had starred in a pilot episode for a proposed television series, No Holds Barred.[7]

In the early 1980s, Petersen moved on from street performing and took his act into local comedy clubs. He then developed an X-rated act in order to set himself apart from other comics.[6] In 2002, Petersen revealed that he had used eight dummies in his career. The one he used at this time was hand carved by Tim Selberg.[3]

Peterson began to make regular appearances on the Opie and Anthony radio show on WNEW, until its cancellation in 2002. He resumed from March 2005 when the show aired on XM Satellite Radio. He also appeared on The Howard Stern Show,[6][3] Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular & Bullshit!, Full Frontal Comedy on Showtime, and Comedy's Dirtiest Dozen. Petersen performed with George at the Adult Film Awards ceremony in Las Vegas on two occasions. He was not asked for a return appearance having offended some of the audience with his material.[10]

Petersen described George as "a homophobic, angry, sexist, racist doll".[4]

In 2004, Peterson was featured in the 2005 documentary film The Aristocrats where he told a version of the joke of the same name.[4]

In 2007, Petersen was a featured comic as part of Ventriloquist Week on Late Show with David Letterman. He looked back on his performance as challenging because of the necessity to use more clean material as opposed to the adult-themed act he is used to.[4]

In 2009, Peterson said that George Carlin had approached him after a gig some years before and said that he was a fan.[4] Also in 2009, Peterson starred in the independent documentary film I'm No Dummy, directed by Bryan W. Simon.[4]

Performing for over 30 years, Otto was well renowned as both a comedian and a ventriloquist.[11][12]

One of the team's last ventures was their Internet variety show The Pig Roast with Otto & George.

Otto & George performed all over the U.S. and Canada. The duo performed several times at the annual Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montréal, Canada.[13][14]

Illness and death[edit]

In June 2013, Petersen fell ill with bacterial meningitis and was placed in a coma for nearly a week. After he had recovered in the following month, comedian Reverend Bob Levy organised a stand-up show for Petersen to help with his medical bills and loss of income.[1]

Petersen died in his sleep at his home in Keyport, New Jersey on April 13, 2014, aged 53.[15][16] He is survived by his longtime partner Trish Conte, mother Sylvia, brother Tom, and sister Lona.

Filmography[edit]

Feature films[edit]

  • Comedy's Dirtiest Dozen (1988)
  • The Force Within (1993)
  • Roswell and Alistair (1998)
  • White Chicks Incorporated (1998)
  • American Dummy (2002)
  • Christmas UFO[6]
  • The Aristocrats (2005)
  • I'm No Dummy (2008)
  • Archie Black: The Worst (2014)

Television[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Nelson, Jennifer L. (26 July 2013). "No 'dummies' here". Daily Record. Morristown, New Jersey. p. X9. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  2. ^ a b Fox, Margalit (17 April 2014). "Otto Petersen, 53; profane ventriloquist". The Boston Globe. p. B11. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  3. ^ a b c d e Rusnak, Jeff (1 November 2002). "Otto's nobody without George". South Florida Sun Sentinel. p. 109. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  4. ^ a b c d e f Pearson, Dan (21 May 2009). "Otto Petersen performs with his dirty dummy". Lake Villa Review. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Highbeam Research. (Subscription required (help)).
  5. ^ Kaz, Ed (1 February 2013). "Wooden it be nice?". Asbury Park Press. p. J22. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  6. ^ a b c d e Condran, Ed (25 February 2005). "Peculiar puppetry". Asbury Park Press. p. 119. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  7. ^ a b c Smith, Bruce (11 July 1980). "Gags & songs and lota hope". p. 86. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  8. ^ a b Coutros, Peter (27 May 1977). "Lips don't move & eyes are wet". p. 17. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  9. ^ a b Leogrande, Ernest (2 September 1977). "The Wooden Mouth". p. 85. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  10. ^ Brownstein, Bill (30 September 2010). "Profane puppet makes even the most potty-mouthed cringe". The Gazette. Montreal, Canada. p. 45. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  11. ^ From Punchline Magazine, June 2008
  12. ^ From SunJournal.com, December 2007
  13. ^ from HOUR Magazine, Montreal Canada: Review of 'Just For Laughs' Comedy Festival 2005: [1]
  14. ^ From Montreal Mirror: Interview for 'Just For Laughs' Comedy Festaval 1998: [2]
  15. ^ Fox, Margalit (15 April 2014). "Otto Petersen, the Voice of Vulgarity, Dies at 53". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Attrino, Anthony G. (April 14, 2014). "Ventriloquist Otto Petersen of ‘Otto and George’ fame dies at 53". NJ.com.

External links[edit]