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Comedian Richard Jeni


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Comedian Jeni Dies In Apparent Suicide

by Ana Beatriz Cholo


Richard Jeni

LOS ANGELES, California -- Richard Jeni, a standup comedian who played to sold-out crowds, was a regular on the "Tonight Show" and appeared in movies, died of a gunshot wound in an apparent suicide, police said. He was 49.

Police found the popular comedian alive but gravely injured in a West Hollywood home on Saturday, March 10, after responding to a 9:50 a.m. emergency call from Jeni's girlfriend, Los Angeles Police Officer Norma Eisenman said. Eisenman said the caller told police, "My boyfriend shot himself in the face."

Jeni, whose real name was Richard John Colangelo, died less than an hour later at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Eisenman said suicide had not been officially confirmed and the investigation was continuing. An autopsy on Jeni is pending for Monday, said Lt. Fred Corral from the investigation division of the coroner's office.


Richard Jeni

Jeni regularly toured the country with a standup act and had starred in several HBO comedy specials, most recently "A Big Steaming Pile of Me" during the 2005-06 season. Another HBO special, "Platypus Man," won a Cable ACE award for best standup comedy special, and formed the basis for his UPN sitcom of the same name, which ran for one season.

Jeni's movie credits included "The Mask," in which he played Jim Carrey's best friend, "The Aristocrats," "National Lampoon's Dad's Week Off" and "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn." He was also a judge on the syndicated Animal Planet pet talent show, "Pet Star."

He had guest appearances in the TV shows, "Everybody Hates Chris," "Married: With Children" and updated versions of the game shows "Hollywood Squares," "Pyramid" and "Match Game." He often served as host on shows such as "Comedians Unleashed" and "Caroline's Comedy Hour."

Frazer Smith, standup comedian who often opened for Jeni and the emcee at the Ice House, where Jeni often performed, said young comedians looked up to him. "He was probably one of the best standup comedians in the last 50 years," said Smith. "He had tons and tons of material. He was looked up to by all the young comedians, a total pro."


Richard Jeni

The Brooklyn-born comic first received national attention in 1990 with the Showtime special, "Richard Jeni: Boy From New York City." Two years later, his "Crazy From the Heat" special attracted the highest ratings in Showtime's history.

Jeni became a frequent guest on "The Tonight Show" during Johnny Carson's reign and continued to appear after Jay Leno took over as host. He also wrote comic material for the 2005 Academy Awards, which was hosted by his friend Chris Rock.

In 1993, Jeni earned an American Comedy Award for Funniest Male Stand-Up Comic. More than a decade later, Comedy Central rated Jeni one of the 60 Best Stand-Up Comics. Jeni's website lists his age as 45, four years younger than coroner's documents show.

Frank Kelley, manager of the Irvine Improv, where Jeni was slated to perform in May, called him "a total perfectionist." "He really had the audience by his hand, the whole time," Kelley said. "I could tell just from listening to the laughter when Jeni was up onstage."

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Yah, he really was a funny guy.

But so many comedians--especially stand-up comics--have said they have suffered from depression. Maybe the comedy thing is a way to cope.

But yes, so sad about Richard Jeni. A shot to the face--how gruesome.

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