Book

Funny Boy: The Richard Hunt Biography is the life story of Muppet performer Richard Hunt.

A born comedian, singer and entertainer, Richard Hunt enjoyed a masterful two-decade career with the world’s most popular puppet troupe, starring as a main performer on children’s television blockbuster Sesame Street and adult megahit The Muppet Show. He played a startlingly wide and wild variety of characters, embodying everyone from young gofers to mellow valley girls to wisecracking old men, using hand puppets, full-body costumes and remote-control technology to physically bring characters to life. Muppeteer Frank Oz calls him the “heart and soul of the irreverence of the Muppets”; his comic sensibility was integral to their phenomenal popularity. And he did it all while having a determinedly good time – even while time was running out.

Hunt’s fairy-tale rise to fame is a rags-to-riches story born of stubbornness and desperation. The oldest son of a large poor family, he felt driven to provide when his alcoholic father fell short of the task. He cold-called the Muppets at 18, apprenticed rapidly, and was barely 25 when Time magazine called The Muppet Show “the most popular television entertainment on earth”. Over 200 million people in a hundred-plus countries tuned in each week to watch the five men perform their iconic puppet characters alongside a who’s who of western entertainment.

Hunt began the 1980s ready to savor his happy ever after. But the decade quickly became a cat-and-mouse game with the AIDS epidemic, which picked off close friends, took his partner, and dangled a sword of Damocles over his own life. Yet Hunt seemingly never lost his signature irreverence, his dream of making “millions of people happy”. Both on and off screen he created a sanctuary of humor that continues to make life better for legions of people the world over. His strong will, hard work and unrelenting fun make his story a wry and engaging twist on the “tragic” AIDS narrative, for any story with Hunt at its center could only be an empowering comedy at heart.

I am established as Hunt’s biographer, having conducted 80 interviews with family members, colleagues such as Frank Oz and Brian Henson, and a broad range of lovers, classmates and friends, in addition to accessing numerous archival materials such as Hunt’s letters and a rare, lengthy interview with him. I have lectured on Hunt across the country, and my research on him has been cited in MSN TV News and the New York Times.

Funny Boy: The Richard Hunt Biography is a fitting biography of a man whose expansive spirit shines through his work. The book is lively and literary, scholarly and silly, elegant and edgy, a snapshot of a vibrant cultural moment, raising questions that remain controversial and relevant. Though his work is phenomenally famous, Hunt himself is curiously invisible – and his story is long overdue.

Read the opening paragraphs here!

Read an excerpt from the childhood section here!

Read an excerpt from the high school section here!