Dustin the Turkey, a puppet character performed by John Morrison, is a former star of RTÉ television’s The Den between 1989 and its cancellation in 2010. He has been described as “the most subversive comedy force on Irish television.”
A turkey with a strong Dublin accent, Dustin first appeared on The Den with Zig and Zag in December 1989, but remained there after their 1993 departure to Channel 4. He also outlasted four human co-hosts, all of whom moved to radio, Ian Dempsey, Ray D’Arcy, Damien McCaul and Francis Boylan Jr.
Dustin has also had a successful music career with chart-topping singles in his native land. He won the public vote to represent Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 with the song “Irelande Douze Pointe”, though he did not progress past the first semi-final stage.
Dustin released his Greatest Hits album in 2001. On 4 November 2005 thermos steel, he released his first new single for four years, “Patricia the Stripper”, a duet with Chris de Burgh aka Christy Burger. On 11 November 2005, he then released a new album, also his first for four years, called Bling When You’re Minging.
These albums have featured backing vocals from many Irish stars including Ronnie Drew, Bob Geldof, Boyzone and the late Joe Dolan. Many of his songs are parodies of either folk songs or well known chart hits from across the decades. He made the news in Britain in December 1996 when he was number one in Ireland with his songs “Christmas Tree” and “Rat Trap” (a cover version of The Boomtown Rats song which he sang with Bob Geldof, and made fun of him throughout), when in just about every other country the Christmas number one spot went to the Spice Girls with their song “2 Become 1”.
Originally the favourite to win safe glass water bottles, Dustin was chosen by the Irish viewers at Eurosong to represent Ireland in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest, becoming the first puppet to do so. Though it was not announced on the Eurosong show how many votes Dustin won, an RTÉ radio show later revealed that the second place had an average of 15 points, while Dustin had 23, so the public really did want to send a puppet to Eurovision. Despite it being a public vote, there was a mixed reaction from the live studio audience when the result was announced, including many audible boos. A panellist on the programme, former Eurovision winner Dana, stated that Ireland would be better withdrawing from the competition than sending Dustin. Despite her lack of support, past Irish Eurovision entries Dickie Rock and Maxi stated their beliefs that Dustin could win.
Dustin performed his song in the first semi-final on 20 May. The song contained, among other things, references to Riverdance (“Give us another chance, we’re sorry for Riverdance!”) and Michael Flatley ( “Sure Flatley he’s a yank” ). Dustin failed to progress beyond the Eurovision semi-final.
Dustin has often declared his interest in politics. He has campaigned in two presidential elections. He competed as Dustin Hoffman in the 1997 presidential election as both forename and surname were necessary to register. Returning officers received votes spoiled with his name in more recent elections. He received some support but many of those ballots were also spoiled. In his mock campaigns, he ran as a representative of “Fianna Fowl” (a play on Ireland’s former largest political party Fianna Fáil) and also of the ‘Poultry Party’. His campaign manifestos have included promising “to bring the DART to Dingle”, as well as making sure every young boy in Ireland got to go on a date with the Spice Girl of their choice (later Pussycat Doll) and industrialising all of Ireland’s rural areas, while ruralising everywhere else.
He has also led the campaign group SOLD (“Stamp Out Line Dancing”).
He is a UNICEF ambassador.
Dustin made a film titled Dustin in Fowl Play in 2002. In this film, he and his friend, Snotser, put together a boyband called Mankind.
In 2008, he made an appearance on British ITV show The Xtra Factor.
In 2009, Dustin was the subject of the documentary Dustin: 20 Years a Pluckin’.
In June 2012, he made an appearance on The Late Late Show 50th anniversary special.
He will present the TV3 toy show with Lucy Kennedy on the 2nd of December 2016m
Dustin is a fan of the Dublin Gaelic football team and English soccer side Manchester United. Dustin’s favourite band is Republic of Loose.
Dustin the Turkey has been an Ambassador for UNICEF Ireland since late 2009 and visited the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, where he found out at firsthand the impact of HIV/AIDS on communities and children and ways that UNICEF is working to help very young children cope.