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Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt (RIP).

Richard & Scooter 1

Richard & his most famous character, Scooter.

Richard & Scooter 2
Richard & Janice

Richard & Janice.

Richard Hunt (August 16th, 1951 - January 7th, 1992) was a longtime Muppeteer who is known for his many characters, his accomplished singing voice, & his warm backstage personality. Hunt brought many popular characters to life, including Scooter, Janice, Beaker, Statler, Sweetums, Junior Gorg, Don Music, Gladys the Cow, Sonny Friendly, Sully, the horns-up half of the Two-Headed Monster, Dip Cat, & Forgetful Jones. He also was the voice of Grandpa Grouch, Oscar the Grouch's grandfather.

Sesame Street Works

During his 1st few seasons on Sesame Street, Hunt was basically a background performer, assisting other puppeteers with characters (performing the right hands of certain characters, & performing the back half of Mr. Snuffleupagus) or performing characters to pre-recorded tracks. Hunt gradually became 1 of the main performers, performing such characters as Sully, Sonny Friendly, Gladys the Cow, Don Music, the horns-up half of the Two-Headed Monster, Dip the Cat, Placido Flamingo, & Forgetful Jones.

Although a main performer on the show none of Richard Hunt's Sesame Street characters became major characters in the same way as Caroll Spinney's Oscar the Grouch & Big Bird, Frank Oz's Cookie Monster, & even Kevin Clash's Elmo (who Hunt actually performed as a minor character from 1984 to 1985). Even after being a main puppeteer, Hunt would often perform in Sesame Street productions (such as Christmas Eve on Sesame Street & Don't Eat the Pictures) where he didn't perform character voices.

Richard Hunt served as a mentor to newer puppeteers, most especially David Rudman. When a new Muppeteer joined the Sesame Street set, Hunt was the 1st to haze & initiate them into the group. Despite this, he always took new puppeteers to lunch, as well as anyone on the set who wanted to join him. He was known to often read the newspaper as he was performing a character & doing that character's lines. Soon after Richard died, David Rudman took over at least 3 of his Sesame Street characters: Sonny Friendly, Richard's half of the Two-Headed Monster, & Sully along w/ taking Richard's place to voice Dip the Cat to Kevin Clash's Chip the Cat once in a Monsterpiece Theater segment.

Muppet Show Antics

Richard Hunt was 1 of the main performers on The Muppet Show, & 1 of 5 performers to be a regular performer on all 5 seasons. His main character was Scooter, but he also performed Beaker, Statler, Janice, & Sweetums. During season 1, he shared the role of Miss Piggy w/ Frank Oz, but by the end of season 1, Piggy became Oz's main character, & Hunt no longer performed her.

Richard Hunt has also been noted for his fine singing voice. As Scooter he sang such songs as "There's a New Sound", "At the Hop", & "Six String Orchestra". He also performed Wayne, who was part of the singing duo Wayne & Wanda, & though the 2 stopped appearing after season 2 after Wanda's performer, Eren Ozker had left the show, Wayne eventually came back to make solo appearances every now & then, singing such songs as "For Me & My Goyle" & "Catch a Falling Star". Despite Hunt's singing voice & the fact that Janice was a musician, playing guitar for the Electric Mayhem, Janice seldom sang lead vocals in songs. She did have 2 major lead-singing performances, singing "With a Little Help From My Friends" & "Rockin' Robin".

In the 1981 book Of Muppets & Men, Christopher Finch described Hunt's endless energy & humor. "He seems to get more unadulterated pleasure from performing than anyone else in the organization," Finch wrote. "When he is not working on camera, he is apt to have Scooter or Beaker, or Janice -- anyone -- on his arm for the purpose of entertaining visitors to the studio. If there are no visitors around, he will attempt to entertain his co-workers... Like Jerry Nelson, he is a versatile on-camera performer, but his importance to the show derives also from his off-camera personality. He makes the crew laugh, jokes with the guest star, clowns for the shop personnel. He is 1 of the chief reasons for the loose atmosphere that exists around Studio D despite the pressure & the slow pace that are endemic to television production."

Fraggle Rock

On Fraggle Rock, Richard Hunt had 2 major characters, Junior Gorg & Gunge. He also performed many minor & 1-shot guest characters, & he originally performed The Storyteller Fraggle (before Terry Angus took over). Richard was most involved with the show during season 1, since unlike Sprocket or the main 5 Fraggles, his characters weren't needed for every (or almost every) episode. After that season, as the background performers began to do more character voices on the show, Hunt performed less frequently on the series, spending his extra time on Sesame Street. According to Terry Angus, "After the 1st season, Richard didn't come in as much cause his characters weren't really called for that often & all of us Canadians were given a chance to do characters every now & then which gave Richard an easier time of it. Plus, he was going down to work on Sesame Street."

Richard Hunt also assisted in the audition process for background puppeteers on Fraggle Rock. He made his directorial debut with the season 5 episode "The Honk of Honks." He also made a cameo as himself ("The Boss" director) in Fraggles Look for Jobs, the show's wrap tape.

Richard Hunt & Jerry Nelson

Jerry & Richard

Richard Hunt working with Jerry Nelson.

Richard Hunt's characters were often paired w/ those of Jerry Nelson. On Sesame Street, Hunt's Sully was the construction worker sidekick to Nelson's Biff. Nelson's Floyd Pepper was often paired w/ Hunt's Janice in musical numbers, & also in a romantic relationship. Floyd also shared lead vocals in the "Mr. Bassman" number w/ Scooter, whose uncle J.P. Grosse, the owner of the Muppet Theater, was also performed by Nelson. Hunt performed Sweetums alongside 1 of Nelson's characters, Robin the Frog, (the nephew of Jim Henson's Kermit the Frog), in the song "Two Lost Souls", in episode 223, & every since then, they've been the best of friends. Hunt also performed Junior Gorg, the son of Nelson's Pa Gorg on Fraggle Rock. Also, while Nelson voiced Granny Grouch, Oscar the Grouch's grandmother, Hunt voiced Grandpa Grouch, Oscar's grandfather. They were never in the same scene together, but it shows yet another successful pairing.

Additionally, the 2 performers shared the role of the Two-Headed Monster. They also play the children in the Twiddlebug family w/ Hunt performing the son, Timmy Twiddlebug, & Nelson performing the daughter, Tina Twiddlebug. Another notable team-up included Hunt's role as Gunge, normally paired w/ Marjory the Trash Heap (a Nelson character), in addition to Dave Goelz' Philo character. Both performers had characters named after them in the band Little Jerry & the Monotones, w/ Hunt performing Rockin' Richard alongside Nelson's Little Jerry. David Rudman took over for both Richard's half of the Two-Headed Monster & Sully after Richard passed away, keeping Richard's legacy alive by working with Jerry.

Jerry Nelson recalled the relationship:

"Richard came into the company when he was pretty young, & I kind-of took Richard under my wing, when he first came in, since Frank & Jim were sort-of a team & I was like a straight man or foil that worked off their characters. So when Richard came in, we got to a point where we would work really well together. When 1 of us would start to go somewhere, the other would know what was happening."

Final Years

Hunt died of AIDS-related complications in 1992. Among his last productions were The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, Muppet*Vision 3D, & Billy Bunny's Animal Songs (the last of which was released in 1993, a year after his death). Following his death, Scooter was retired & absent as a character in all of the major Muppet productions till Muppets from Space, in which he was voiced by Adam Hunt, Richard's surviving brother. He has since been performed by Matt Vogel, Brian Henson, Rickey Boyd, &, also most recently & seemingly permanently, by David Rudman, who carries Richard's legacy on to this very day, performing Scooter, Sully, Janice, Sonny Friendly (for a short time), Dip, & Richard's half of the Two-Headed Monster. Very few of Hunt's other characters (with the notable exceptions of Beaker, Statler, & Sweetums, who were handed to Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson (& later Steve Whitmire), & John Henson respectively) were recast w/ new performers for years. Many of his other characters were relegated to silent background roles, though a few, like Gladys the Cow have been gradually recast since then.

Muppeteer Credits

See also

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