RIP Otto Petersen, ventriloquist of Otto & George (1960-2014)

Otto Petersen, whose foul-mouthed ventriloquist dummy George made his act “Otto & George” a popular friend of the Opie & Anthony radio program, reportedly died in his sleep. He was 53.

The sad news was reported this morning on SiriusXM’s The Opie & Anthony Show.

Petersen almost died last year, going into a coma for a week after a case of bacterial meningitis. As he told O&A afterward, he’d mistakenly taken illegal painkillers to treat an inner ear infection — he’d suffered ear aches often as a child, but nothing recently until then. “I was never sick before. It just came out of nowhere,” Petersen said last September. “People die from what I had. But fuck it! I got lucky. But I don’t see a new world. I didn’t gain that wisdom from a brush with death. It’s just — I feel like I’m going to go through this again, and it’ll fucking do me in next time. I’ll live to die another day. Like cynical about it.”

Petersen wrote his own bio online:

Once upon a time, I was a 7 year old boy called Otto Petersen living in place called Staten Island. I was watching my favorite daytime children’s show, Winchell Mahoney Time. Two puppets called Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff fascinated me. I knew there and then…That’s the job for me.

I got a Danny O’Day doll – the kind with a string sticking out of the back of his neck that opens his mouth. He lives in a suitcase in my closet until this very day. But still something was wrong…I needed a real wooden boy like Geppedo…Not a boy with wood like Michael Jackson.There once was a really cool Magic store at 1540 Broadway in the middle of Times Square called Louis Tannen’s. It was up on the 17th floor. There was George, locked in a glass cabinet. He was $350 and he had to be mine.It took about 5 months performing with the plastic doll which I now called Chester, to raise the loot (with some help from my mom and two uncles). Finally, I got the first real puppet and never looked back. I have had 1 job in my life. Three weeks I worked in the garment district in NYC. Three weeks, that’s no lie.

George, the way he looks now is pretty similar to that doll I bought in 1974. Central Park, Wall Street, Staten Island Ferry, Greenwich Village and Broadway…I did outdoor shows and passed the hat for years. In Central Park one Sunday, I had john Lennon in my audience. He waited until the crowd dispersed to say to me ‘the puppet is funnier, here’s two dollars. Give George $1.50…you keep the rest’. What a thrill, making a Beatle laugh! Those were fun times.From the street to clubs all over the USA and Canada, I’ve been everywhere, man.There’s also been lots of TV and radio. Big radio – Stern, Opie & Anthony – I like them both. They are all funny guys and you can listen to both. End of story.In the beginning, there were street shows. I always felt that if all the comedy clubs closed down for some reason, I would go back to busking and pick up where I left off in 1980! Of course I would have to go G-Rated, and that would suck Rhino Cock!

Otto & George made an appearance on the documentary, The Aristocrats. Even in an obviously NSFW movie about the most infamously NSFW joke, Otto, paired with George, found a new spin on it.

He also could be TV clean, too, though — performing on the Late Show with David Letterman during “Ventriloquism Week” in 2007:

Here’s an interview Otto Petersen gave in 2012 with Conor Murphy in Ireland where you to hear a bit more about his background, inspirations and career aspirations.

Otto was still performing just this past weekend, online posting photos of himself with his funny friends (this shot reposted last Wednesday of himself with Robert Kelly, Tracy Morgan, Bob Saget and Bill Burr).


And on Friday night, Otto and George was headlining a benefit show for someone else.


As The Opie & Anthony Show just shared on Twitter this morning: “Our friend, Otto Petersen. God bless you.”

Petersen also had submitted a couple of columns this spring to The Interrobang, which posthumously published one of them today: “These Comedians Changed My Life.” In which Petersen expresses his admiration for Laurel & Hardy, The Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields. He wrote: “When I was a kid old comedians and monster movies is what fed me. I have a dummy, George, and it’s a comedy team. So in my own way I’m part of this tradition. I have never had a day job and have been working since I’m 14, and I’m working now. So my life was changed by seeing people like Laurel & Hardy on TV and saying ‘Wow, those guys actually lived once’.”

Rest in peace, Otto & George.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →

24 thoughts on “RIP Otto Petersen, ventriloquist of Otto & George (1960-2014)

  1. The Opie And Anthony show is the Algonquin Round Table for comics. When any of these guys are in town the O&A show is always home base. Some of the best shows they’ve had are comics dropping by and shooting the shit. Patrice and now Otto. Very sad.

  2. Great article on comedy icon(s) Otto & George! Concise, accurate and even a little emotional. Thank you for honoring this legendary performer in a respectful manner.

  3. Otto, in the words of the great Jackie Gleason, Otto your the greatest and I don’t exaggerate to clarify.

    Mark Rossi

    1. Hi Mark, it’s Lona, Otto’s sister…hope all is well. We are HEARTBROKEN!!

  4. A true genius, working in the only way he knew and wanted..

    I often heard him on O&A and looked forward to his brutal humor.. It ALWAYS made me think.. And laugh..

    God Damn.. The short lives of troubled geniuses..

    My best wishes to his family..

    RIP Mr. Petersen.

  5. My big brother, my friend, you made me laugh and now I cry. I miss you, I adore you and I love you. Rest in peace brother. You were one of a kind. LONA PETERSEN PALMIERI….I WILL TAKE CARE OF OUR FAMILY DON’T YOU WORRY. KEEP MAKING US LAUGH OTTO.

  6. One of my favorite Otto and George moments. Pips Comedy Club. Things aren’t going well, and Otto let’s George hear it it. George proceeds to insult Otto, basically telling Otto that he sucks! Otto throws George against the backdrop and starts kicking and screaming at George, then walks off stage. The audience is half hysterical, half stunned. Seth Schultz, may he RIP, runs on stage with his Abraham Lincoln hat and starts dancing for 5 minutes. Show over. So lucky to have crossed paths with those guys! RIP Otto! COCK!!!!

  7. Any headliner can kill, but no one killed like Otto…
    George finally got his wish and is now doing the show by himself.
    RIP :,-(

  8. Rest in peace my friend. Otto,you were a wonderful man and you will be missed. Love and peace to you and your family. xoxo

  9. I remember when he talked about taking illegal pain killers…but is the author hinting that this may be the cause of death? Otherwise, I don’t know what purpose that statement would serve in this story. Even at the time it was a kind of throw away line.

    1. Otto himself described what almost killed him last year. Whether that’s relevant to what actually caused his death is for an autopsy to decide. Hints, allegations, throwaway lines of dismissal…that’s you reading what you want from it.

  10. Otto was an incredibly talented comedian.
    Never to everybody’s taste- but to those of us who did enjoy it- he was fabulous.
    I considered myself his UK fanclub- much to Otto’s indifference…

    I’m sure Otto would want George to have the final say-
    “So you finally rolled a 7, you Danish junkie loser !”
    Actually, I’m sure Otto would sooner be still with us…but what can you do?

    Farewell Otto. A very sad day.

  11. My dear, sweet, Otto, I will miss you forever. The world is less lighter today the stars above brighter. The best times in my life were laughing with you and Seth. I am so heartbroken. You leave behind much beauty, love, and joy. I will pray you, and your (our) best friend forever, Seth, meet in heaven–happy and healthy–once again. ‘Til we meet again, go in peace and may god bless your soul. Love, always, always, Patty

  12. Saw Otto at Dangerfields an d struck up a conversatrion. Being SI boys we became friends and on several occasions he permitted me to audio tape some of his gigs.As the years went buy I would pop up at a gig here and there and he was always receptive and kind. For those wo knew him he always made you feel like the two of you had an inside joke that no one else knew about.Rest in peace Otto, those few moments we did share will always keep a smile on my face

    1. I worked with otto for years at the goodtime café on 31st and 3rd ave in manahatten we were very close I was the mc I was the guy who brought him to Brooklyn at pips I miss him much we spent many nites together drove him home to SIsland

  13. I also worked with George ad George at the Goodtime Cafe’ in NYC. He was absolutely brilliant.

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