March 30, 2007 by

Richard Jeni


Categories: Actors, Hollywood, Writers/Editors

rjeni.jpgRichard Jeni, a standup comedian who regularly toured the country and starred in several HBO comedy specials, committed suicide on March 10. He was 49.
Born Richard John Colangelo, the Brooklyn native graduated from Hunter College with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Growing up in Bensonhurst, he enjoyed making people laugh by doing Redd Foxx routines. In the 1980s, he adopted the stage name Richard Jeni and began performing his act in small bars and comedy clubs in New York City. Recollections of his Catholic boyhood, commentary about political and social issues and sarcastic observations of his romantic difficulties appealed to audiences and soon he was playing to sold-out crowds all over the country.
Jeni came to national prominence in 1990 with “Richard Jeni: Boy From New York City,” a Showtime special that received three nominations for Cable ACE Awards. When its follow-up, “Crazy From the Heat,” aired two years later, it attracted the highest ratings in the network’s history.
In the early 1990s, Jeni began writing and performing comedy specials for HBO. His show, “Platypus Man,” won a Cable ACE Award for best standup comedy special, and formed the basis for a sitcom of the same name. That program, which ran on UPN, was canceled after one season. Jeni’s final HBO special, “A Big Steaming Pile of Me,” aired during the 2005-2006 season.
When he wasn’t on the road, Jeni regularly performed on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, and later with Jay Leno. He made guest appearances on the TV shows “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Married: With Children,” and wrote material for the 2005 Academy Awards. On the big screen, Jeni earned laughs as Jim Carrey’s best friend in the box office hit, “The Mask,” and landed small roles in “The Aristocrats,” “National Lampoon’s Dad’s Week Off” and “An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn.” Jeni also hosted A&E’s “Caroline’s Comedy Hour” for two years, performed at the White House, won an American Comedy Award for Funniest Male Stand-Up and was ranked on Comedy Central’s List of 100 Top Comedians of All Time.
Earlier this year, doctors diagnosed Jeni with clinical depression and suffering from bouts of psychotic paranoia. On the morning of March 10, police responded to a 9-1-1 call from Jeni’s long-time girlfriend, Amy Murphy. When they found the comic in his West Hollywood home, he was alive but gravely injured from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the face. Jeni died less than an hour later at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
“He was a beautiful person, an incredibly brilliant and talented man, and in the end, unfortunately, I think his brilliance might have played a part in what happened,” Murphy said. “He said he just didn’t believe anything was going to make him get better; he didn’t see it happening.”
Jeni’s MySpace Page
Listen to a Tribute From NPR
Jeni on Political Extremes

4 Responses to Richard Jeni

  1. Catmom

    I consider Richard Jeni to have been one of the comic geniuses of our generation. His “Big Steaming Pile of Me” special had me in hysterics, it was so funny. I am so sorry that his inner pain drove him to such a premature death. There was so much more humor he could have shared with us over the years had he been able to find some kind of peace in his life.
    A sad situation all around.

  2. Geoffrey Brandner

    Richard was a gifted talent and very effective. His late nite lawyer ad routine was so memorable that lawyers everywhere loved it. This genius will be missed.

  3. Constant Cook

    I have to say Richard was one of the funniest people that I have ever watched. We sometimes forget how important that it is to laugh, this man made it very easy. The world lost an incredible comedian and unfortunately he did not get the help that he needed

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