This gay puppeteer helped put “The Muppet Show” on the map and changed television forever

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For a generation of viewers, “The Muppet Show” remains a television anomaly – a kid-friendly variety series that has dared to embrace adult humor as well. Although he has become synonymous with creator Jim henson, the show might not have enjoyed its lasting success without the contribution of puppeteer Richard Hunt, who helped create some of his most beloved characters.

In the latest episode of his YouTube series, the Seattle reporter Matt Baumé uses research and material provided by the biographer Jessica max stein to take an in-depth look at Hunt’s artistic legacy. At the height of its popularity, “The Muppet Show” would have drawn over 235 million viewers in 106 countries. Because Hunt’s face never appeared on camera, he became “one of the most famous gay men in the world that no one recognized,” according to Baume.

Originally from the Bronx, New York, Hunt was drawn to the performing arts from a young age. At 18, he was hired by “Sesame Street” after cold calling Henson’s team from a pay phone, first playing background characters before moving on to star roles.

Check out Richard Hunt’s profile by Matt Baume below:

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Baume, however, believes that Hunt reached his creative heyday with the debut of “The Muppet Show” in 1976. From the start, Henson’s goal was to distance “The Muppet Show” from “Sesame Street,” and in doing so , it allowed artists to imbue their characters with more of their off-screen characters. In Hunt’s case, that meant giving characters like Scooter, Statler, Janice, and Beaker a distinctly odd sensibility.

“It is impossible to imagine what ‘The Muppets’ would have been like without Richard – although his name is not as well known, he is as integral to them as any of the iconic characters he has created,” Baume said.

After the end of The Muppet Show in 1981, Hunt’s career with the Jim Henson Company continued to flourish. He appeared in “Fragile rock“And” The Muppets Take Manhattan “, and can still be seen at”Muppet * 3D Vision»Attraction of Disney’s Hollywood studios in Florida. He died of an AIDS-related illness in 1992 at the age of 40.

The cast and crew of “The Muppet Show” in 1980.

Nancy Moran via Getty Images

Baume, who is the author of the 2015 book, “Defining marriageHunt’s impact is seen in recent Jim Henson Company projects, many of which contain simpler elements that include LGBTQ. The rollout for 2011’s “The Muppets”, With Jason Segel and Amy Adams, included an article in Out magazine about Miss Piggy’s “place in the gay pantheon”. Earlier this year, “Sesame Street” featured a gay couple and their daughter in a special “Family Day” episode.

“For a long time, I felt zigzagged between a feeling of sadness over the loss of Richard and anger that political inaction against HIV has taken so many people away from us,” Baume said. “But mixed in with those feelings, there was also a lot of joy for all the wonderful, meaningful, touching and funny art that Richard created that made it impossible to stay in a dark place for very long thinking about all of his Muppet chaos.”

“I consider this his greatest gift to the world: Like so many brilliant queer designers of his generation, although he left far too early, he left the world with more than a lifetime’s share of beauty, magic. and inspiration, ”he added. .



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