Closter-Raised Muppeteer’s Short But Remarkable Life Chronicled in New Biography

Richard Hunt "brought a sensibility and edginess to the Muppets that they needed," says author Jessica Max Stein.

Cover of "Funny Boy: The Richard Hunt Biography" by Jessica Max Stein
Funny Boy: The Richard Hunt Biography is out now from Rutgers University Press.

In 1970, 18-year-old Richard Hunt bounded into the New York rehearsal room where Jim Henson and Frank Oz were auditioning new puppeteers for the Muppets.

Hunt, just graduated from Northern Valley Regional High School in Demarest, passed his audition with flying colors. The rest was Muppet history.

The Bronx-born, Closter-raised Hunt played characters such as Scooter, Beaker, Statler and Janice, performing with the Muppets until his death at age 40 from AIDS complications in 1992.

Hunt’s short but remarkable life is the subject of Funny Boy: The Richard Hunt Biography, by Jessica Max Stein, released in March by Rutgers University Press.

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The book explores the many facets of Hunt’s life and work as a member of the original team of Muppet performers, as a gay man and as a Jersey boy who always looked out for his friends. At restaurants, he always insisted on picking up the check, even if he had to arm wrestle his friends for it.

Hunt might not be as well known to the public as Henson or Oz, but he was a key member of the Muppets ensemble. “Hunt brought a sensibility and edginess to the Muppets that they needed, and pushed them over the edge,” Stein says.

Stein conducted close to 100 interviews for the book. “People know his work, but they don’t know him. Now I hope people will know him better,” Stein says.

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