Otto Petersen

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David Foster Wallace wrote a great description of the nicotine-and-sandpaper comedian Bobby Slayton, who once descended on Las Vegas to host the Adult Film Awards, the Oscars of oral: “A gravelly-voiced Dice Clay knockoff who kept introducing every female performer as ‘the woman I’m going to cut my dick off for,’ and who astounded all the marginal print journalists in attendance with both his unfunniness and his resemblance to every apartment-complex coke dealer we’d ever met.”

As disreputable as Slayton may have seemed, he was one-upped by the toilet-mouthed ventriloquist act, Otto and George, when it headlined the grindhouse gala, actually managing to upset a roomful of people best known for performing deep throats and double penetrations. Otto Petersen, the fleshy half of the act, just passed away. His New York Times obituary was written by Margalit Fox, whose copy is steadfastly one of the great joys of reading the publication. An excerpt:

Popular with audiences and widely admired by other comics, Mr. Petersen was often described as soft-spoken in private life. But he was no match, he often said, for the strong-willed, forked-tongue George, whose caustic, profanity-laced outbursts rained down on a spate of targets, not least of all Mr. Petersen himself.

No subject was sacred, and George’s myriad observations could range over matters sexual, scatological, urological, gastroenterological, racial, bestial, theological and homicidal. None will be quoted here.

Mr. Petersen’s act was so scurrilous that it once proved too much for a historically thick-skinned crowd.

“They were told they had managed to offend the audience at the annual adult-film awards — the porno-world equivalent to the Academy Awards — in Las Vegas,” The Montreal Gazette reported in 2010. “Otto and George had twice served as hosts, but weren’t asked back by the insulted and suddenly squeamish organizers.•

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