Book Review: Jim Henson: the Biography by Brian Jay Jones

Author: Brian Jay Jones
Title: Jim Henson
Narrator: Kirby Heyborne
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2013)

Brian Jay Jones writes a straightforward account of the life and work of Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets, and one of the most beloved figures in entertainment in the second-half of the 20th century.  I won’t go into a full summary, but here are five interesting things I learned from reading this biography:

  • Jim Henson’s career started when he was only 18 years old in 1954 when he had a show featuring puppet characters on local Washington, DC television called Sam and Friends, which aired for five minutes, twice per day.
  • Henson never considered himself as primarily a puppeteer and worked on projects such as experimental film, animation, and even an attempt to open a psychedelic nightclub.
  • Similarly, Henson fought against the perception of him being a children’s entertainer and his work for Saturday Night Live, The Muppet Show, and movies like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth were all made to entertain all ages.
  • Henson’s wife Jane Nebel worked as a puppeteer on Sam and Friends but stepped down for a more domestic role when they had children.  Jim and Jane’s marriage was very strained by Jim’s dedication to his work and they were separated late in his life.  They never divorced and remained close friends despite the failure of the marriage.
  • Henson wanted to cast Sting in Labyrinth but his kids convinced him (correctly) that David Bowie would have more staying power.

This is an enjoyable and entertaining work of biography and worth reading if you love The Muppets and Henson’s other creations.

Recommended books:

Rating: ****