Funny Boy

The Richard Hunt Biography

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Pub Date Mar 15 2024 | Archive Date Not set

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"The most sensational, perpetual teenager in the world.” —Jim Henson

"To know him was to love him, and we do." —Mark Hamill
Funny Boy: The Richard Hunt Biography tells the life story of a gifted performer whose gleeful irreverence, sharp wit and generous spirit inspired millions. Richard Hunt was one of the original main five performers in the Muppet troupe. He brought to life an impressive range of characters on The Muppet ShowSesame StreetFraggle Rock and various Muppet movies, everyone from eager gofer Scooter to elderly heckler Statler, groovy girl Janice to freaked-out lab helper Beaker, even early versions of Miss Piggy and Elmo. Hunt also acted, directed and mentored the next generation of performers. His accomplishments are all the more remarkable in that he crammed them all into only 40 years. 

Richard Hunt was just 18 years old when he joined Jim Henson’s company, where his edgy humor quickly helped launch the Muppets into international stardom. Hunt lived large, savoring life’s delights, amassing a vivid, disparate community of friends. Even when the AIDS epidemic wrought its devastation, claiming the love of Hunt’s life and threatening his own life, he showed an extraordinary sense of resilience, openness and joy. Hunt’s story exemplifies how to follow your passion, foster your talents, adapt to life’s surprises, genuinely connect with everyone from glitzy celebrities to gruff cab drivers – and have a hell of a lot of fun along the way.

"The most sensational, perpetual teenager in the world.” —Jim Henson

"To know him was to love him, and we do." —Mark Hamill
Funny Boy: The Richard Hunt Biography tells the life story of a gifted...

Advance Praise

"I met Richard Hunt while touring the Muppet Show and we became instant friends for life. Everything about him was larger than life: His personality, his humor, his energy, his talent and his great big heart. My family never knew when he might show up in his big black Checker cab, but we did know we were in for another wonderful adventure with the guy my kids call 'Uncle Richard' to this very day. To know him was to love him, and we do."

~Mark Hamill, actor

"[A]n affectionate debut biography the life and work of Richard Hunt...Mining interviews with Hunt’s friends, colleagues, and family, Stein perceptively captures how the puppeteer’s edgy energy and unique, irreverent humor proved instrumental to the show’s success, particularly as The Muppets transitioned toward more adult-centered programming in the 1970s. The result is a nuanced and meticulously detailed tribute to the artist once described by Jim Henson as 'the most sensational, perpetual teenager in the world.'"

~Publishers Weekly

"I worked with Richard Hunt for 18 years, but there was a lot I didn’t know. Jessica Max Stein's powerful biography of Hunt is a great read. Stein spent years meticulously researching Hunt’s intensely public and fiercely private life. Here is the authentic story of Hunt’s journey to the top of his field, but more importantly, his quest for self-knowledge and finally, self-acceptance. I know Richard better now."

  ~Dave Goelz, Muppet performer for 50+ years

"At last! It's the long-awaited story of one of Muppet history's most beloved performers! With Funny Boy, Jessica Max Stein brings us a nuanced, compassionate, and deeply researched biography of Richard Hunt, exploring his remarkable life as one of Muppetdom's most enthusiastic and energetic performers, while putting that same life in context with a complicated and often dark time in our cultural history. Tapping into interviews with those who were there, and packed full of stories you've never heard before, Funny Boy is all at once entertaining, interesting, inspiring, wacky, and heartbreaking--just like Richard Hunt himself."

~Brian Jay Jones, author of Jim Henson: The Biography

"Jessica Max Stein's biography of performer and puppeteer Richard Hunt is humorous, touching, and engagingly written. Funny Boy illuminates Hunt's life as a stunning example of how to live and die with community, frivolity, dignity, and purpose."

  ~Theodore (Ted) Kerr, co-author of We Are Having This Conversation Now: The Times of AIDS Cultural Production

"I met Richard Hunt while touring the Muppet Show and we became instant friends for life. Everything about him was larger than life: His personality, his humor, his energy, his talent and his great...

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ISBN 9781978836716
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Featured Reviews

Whenever I read anything relating to the history of the Muppets, I always noticed that specially fond mention would always be given to Richard Hunt - who wasn’t only memorable for being one of the original core five puppeteers and for skillfully giving life to Scooter, Janice, Statler, Beaker, and many, many other characters. Short and scattered descriptions painted him as a figure whose infectious personality made him a much more treasured and appreciated figure when he was off camera (or to be more accurate, when he wasn’t performed beneath the camera frame). The more I read, and the more snippets I came across, the more that I genuinely wanted to know about this seemingly larger-than-life person who was one of the crew behind the affectionately anarchic bears and frogs and pigs that I adored so much. However, no matter how detailed the Muppet-centric book, there was always a hard limit to how much more I could learn about Hunt (along with his colleagues).

Such was the case at least until the arrival of “Funny Boy,” the new Richard Hunt biography by Jessica Max Stein. Written upon a foundation of God only knows how many interviews from an enormous cast of friends, family, and colleagues of Hunt, this book feels as intimate and detailed an overview of a single individual’s life as one can possibly get without having that person write their own tale. And it reveals a man who was everything he was hinted to be in all past Muppet-related works I’ve read, and also so, so, so much more. He was life of every party that he attended. A tireless entertainer. The man with the ability to befriend seemingly anyone. Mentor and collaborator to a generation of Muppet performers. A figure who was fiercely generous to a fault. An incredibly devoted sibling and son. The buoyant soul who faithfully kept up everyone’s spirits no matter where he was. In short, he’s shown to be an absolute force of life on multiple levels, and “Funny Boy” not only does his best to give him his proper due, but it also makes his premature departure from this world all the greater tragedy.

This labor of love from Stein is unquestionably the newest member of what I would consider to be the core Muppet nonfiction literary canon, joining the ranks of works like Brian Jay Jones’ “Jim Henson: a Biography” and Christopher Finch’s “Of Muppets and Men.” However, one doesn’t need to be a particularly zealous fan of the Muppets such as myself in order to thoroughly enjoy “Funny Boy.” It’s just an excellent biography in general, and other readers are sure to appreciate this wonderfully done telling of the life a man who burned so brightly and was able to touch so many both on and off the big and small screens.

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