“The main problem with street performing was getting the first person to stop. Cause you just look like a lunatic sitting there.”
“Any time the cops chased me, I would get my best collections cause I would look pathetic, putting my dummy away, a sad kid…so I would make a great collection, every time the cops chased me.”
Our new podcast shares select archival episodes of Ron Bennington’s epic interview series Unmasked, and this week we chose an episode from 2012 with Otto Petersen, who you know as the more human half of the Otto and George comedy team.
The Unmasked series which began in 2008 with a brilliant hour with Patrice O’Neal has taped nearly 200 episodes, documenting the careers of the most interesting comedy writers, directors, filmmakers, actors, screenwriters, satirists, political comedians, comedic musicians and of course, stand up comedians in the business. It is a veritable archive of the greatest comedy of our time. Past Unmasked guests have included Joan Rivers, Bob Newhart, Amy Schumer, Dan Aykroyd, Simon Pegg, Tracy Morgan, Paul Feig, Jim Jefferies, Gilbert Gottfried, Bobcat Goldthwait, Louis C.K., David Brenner, Brian Regan and over 150 more comedy greats.
Otto and George fans, if you haven’t heard this episode of Unmasked yet, get ready to hear a completely different side of Otto Petersen. Yes, he is everything you want him to be, but also so much more. This is hands down one of our absolute most favorite episodes, and whether you’re already a fan of Otto’s or about to be, it will be yours too.
For those few who don’t know, Otto is one-half of the dirtiest and very possibly funniest ventriloquist act ever to take the stage. Ron Bennington introduces the episode explaining that comedians don’t generally like ventriloquist acts, but everyone loved watching Otto and George perform, and comedians would always check out his shows, because it was outrageous, smart, funny, and always full of shocks and surprises. Ron also said it took some convincing to get Otto to do the Unmasked solo, thinking that without George, people wouldn’t be as interested, but the stories are absolutely riveting, and so damn funny.
During the hour, you’ll hear Otto go way back, to getting his first dummy, and working as a street performer in New York City early on in his career. The stories from his street days are some of the best we’ve ever heard, and they’re an incredible window, not only into Otto’s life, but into New York City at a time of cultural greatness. It’s unbelievable how many fascinating people he encountered- hanging out with tightrope performer Philippe Petit, he tells a story about making John Lennon laugh and getting two bucks from him, Peter Falk shilling for him for an hour while he was killing time, (“It was just like meeting Columbo”), and the time that George got stabbed by a Puerto Rican, somehow leaving Otto with a lifelong scar.
Later, he talks about transitioning to the clubs, opening for bands at the Bottom Line or working at Good Times at 3rd and 31st street, (which by the way was a gigantic pay cut from the money he was making on the street), and working regularly with Eddie Murphy before he got Saturday Night Live.
If you love Otto, if you love New York City, if you love comedy, you must listen to this episode.
Recorded on October 28, 2012 in SiriusXM’s infamous Fishbowl studio, this is Unmasked, from the Archives, with Otto Petersen and Ron Bennington.