Petersen in 2006 during the Opie and Anthony's Traveling Virus Comedy Tour
|Birth name||Otto Sol Petersen|
|Born||July 29, 1960|
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||April 13, 2014 (aged 53)|
Keyport, New Jersey
|Genres||Ventriloquism, observational comedy, black comedy, insult 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. 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
Petersen was born in Brooklyn, New York City, to a Danish father and Jewish American mother, and raised on Staten Island. Petersen began to perform as a ventriloquist when he was seven. Among his influences during his early life was watching Paul Winchell and his dummies Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. He bought his first dummy at a magic shop in Times Square in 1974 for $350.
Petersen dropped out of high school and became a street performer at thirteen, initially in the New York City area, the college circuit, and at gigs in the Catskills. His act included insults and nursery rhymes with humorous and gross alterations. In 1976, John Lennon gave him $2 after watching him perform in Central Park with Yoko Ono. 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. Petersen then used a replacement that a friend had made named Phil. 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. In 1980, the 20-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. By this time, his dummy was renamed George, and Petersen had starred in a pilot episode for a proposed television series, No Holds Barred.
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. 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.
Petersen was a guest on Opie and Anthony on WNEW and XM Satellite Radio from April 2000 until his death. He also appeared on The Howard Stern Show, 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.
Petersen described George as "a homophobic, angry, sexist, racist doll".
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.
In 2009, Petersen said that George Carlin had approached him after a gig some years before and said that he was a fan. Also in 2009, Petersen starred in the independent documentary film I'm No Dummy, directed by Bryan W. Simon. The comedian Andrew Dice Clay used a large number of the nursery rhymes that Otto told for years well before the rise of Dice.
One of the team's last ventures was their Internet variety show The Pig Roast with Otto & George.
Illness and death
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.
- Comedy's Dirtiest Dozen (1988)
- The Force Within (1993)
- Roswell and Alistair (1998)
- White Chicks Incorporated (1998)
- American Dummy (2002)
- Christmas UFO
- The Aristocrats (2005)
- I'm No Dummy (2009)
- Archie Black: The Worst (2014)
- The Morton Downey, Jr. Show (1988)
- Playboy Channel's 'The Club (1990)
- The Joe Franklin Show (1990)
- Full Frontal Comedy (1996)
- Late Show with David Letterman (2007)
- Penn & Teller's Bullshit! (2007)
- Nelson, Jennifer L. (26 July 2013). "No 'dummies' here". Daily Record. Morristown, New Jersey. p. X9. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Fox, Margalit (15 April 2014). "Otto Petersen, the Voice of Vulgarity, Dies at 53". The New York Times. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
- Fox, Margalit (17 April 2014). "Otto Petersen, 53; profane ventriloquist". The Boston Globe. p. B11. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Rusnak, Jeff (1 November 2002). "Otto's nobody without George". South Florida Sun Sentinel. p. 109. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Pearson, Dan (21 May 2009). "Otto Petersen performs with his dirty dummy". Lake Villa Review. Archived from the original on 22 September 2018. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Highbeam Research.
- Kaz, Ed (1 February 2013). "Wooden it be nice?". Asbury Park Press. p. J22. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Condran, Ed (25 February 2005). "Peculiar puppetry". Asbury Park Press. p. 119. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Smith, Bruce (11 July 1980). "Gags & songs and lota hope". p. 86. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Coutros, Peter (27 May 1977). "Lips don't move & eyes are wet". p. 17. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Leogrande, Ernest (2 September 1977). "The Wooden Mouth". p. 85. Retrieved 22 September 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- 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.
- From Punchline Magazine, June 2008
- From SunJournal.com, December 2007
- from HOUR Magazine, Montréal Canada: Review of 'Just For Laughs' Comedy Festival 2005:  Archived 2007-07-18 at the Wayback Machine
- From Montreal Mirror: Interview for 'Just For Laughs' Comedy Festaval 1998: 
- Attrino, Anthony G. (April 14, 2014). "Ventriloquist Otto Petersen of ‘Otto and George’ fame dies at 53". NJ.com.