Today’s Weekly Muppeteer Wednesday spotlight is once again brought to us by Tom Stroud. As always, if you would like to contribute to Weekly Muppet Wednesdays or Weekly Muppeteer Wednesdays, email Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 7, 1992
Scooter, Beaker, Janice, Statler, Sweetums, Junior Gorg, Gunge, Don Music, Forgetful Jones, Gladys the Cow, Placido Flamingo, Sully
WHO WAS RICHARD HUNT?
Richard was born the second of five children in New York City. From a young age, he loved the Muppets and put on puppet shows for local children while in middle school and high school. A few months after graduating, he called up Henson Associates and asked them cold if they were hiring puppeteers. By coincidence, Jim Henson was holding auditions that very day. Richard ran over to the auditions and was placed in a room with Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, and a box full of puppets. He was hired, and soon appeared in his first Henson project, The Great Santa Claus Switch.
Henson was impressed with Richard, and asked him to work on a Muppet appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Henson was once again impressed, and hired Richard as a full-time performer on Sesame Street.
At first, Richard was only a background performer, assisting with characters played by other Muppeteers or performing Muppets to pre-recorded tracks. Richard gradually became a main performer though, performing characters such as Don Music, Forgetful Jones, and Gladys the Cow. However, although he was a main performer, none of his characters achieved as much popularity as Big Bird, Elmo or Cookie Monster. Richard was also a mentor to new puppeteers, being the first to haze and initiate new Muppeteers into the company.
Richard was one of the main five performers on The Muppet Show, performing popular characters such as Scooter, Statler, Sweetums, and Janice. He also became noted for his great singing voice, singing songs such as “Six String Orchestra” and “There’s a New Sound” as Scooter, and many more as Wayne, part of the singing duo of Wayne and Wanda. He was also known for bringing humor and energy to the set, entertaining visitors and co-workers with his Muppets.
When Fraggle Rock came along, Richard performed two major characters, Junior Gorg and Gunge, as well as performing many minor and one-shot characters. Richard also made his directorial debut with season four’s “The Honk of Honks.”
In 1992, Richard unfortunately died due to AIDS-related complications. After his death, Scooter was retired and was absent in all Muppet productions until Muppets From Space, where he was played by Richard’s brother, Adam Hunt. He has since been performed by Brian Henson, Ricky Boyd, and, most recently and seemingly permanently, David Rudman, who carries on Richard’s legacy to this day, performing Scooter, Janice, and Richard’s half of the Two-Headed Monster. Richard’s other characters were recast fairly quickly, with Statler going to Jerry Nelson (and subsequently Steve Whitmire), Sweetums to John Henson and other puppeteers, and Beaker to Steve Whitmire.
This post is dedicated to the memory of Richard Hunt, as well as his mother, Jane Hunt, who is still alive today to carry on Richard’s legacy.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier