How Did Richard Jeni Die? The Tragic Story of a Comedy Legend

Richard Jeni was one of the most successful and respected stand-up comedians of his generation. He was known for his witty and hilarious observations on life, politics, relationships, and pop culture. He appeared on numerous TV shows, including The Tonight Show, HBO Comedy Hour, and Platypus Man. He also starred in several movies, such as The Mask, The Aristocrats, and Burn Hollywood Burn. He was admired by his peers and loved by his fans. But behind the laughter, he was struggling with a mental illness that eventually led him to take his own life. How did Richard Jeni die? What was the cause of his death? And what legacy did he leave behind? Here is the tragic story of a comedy legend.

Early Life and Career

Richard Jeni was born Richard John Colangelo on April 14, 1957, in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in an Italian-American Catholic family in Bensonhurst, a working-class neighborhood. He graduated with honors from Hunter College, where he majored in comparative politics. After college, he worked as a public relations agent, but he was fired from five different firms in two years. He decided to pursue stand-up comedy as a career in 1982, after doing an open-mic night in Brooklyn.

He quickly rose to fame in the comedy scene, thanks to his sharp and original material. He made his debut on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1988, and became a frequent guest on the show. He also performed on other late-night talk shows, such as Late Night with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. He won several awards for his stand-up specials on Showtime and HBO, including two CableACE Awards. He was voted as the Best Nightclub Comedian by Comedy USA in 1989, and as the Best Male Stand-up by the American Comedy Awards in 1992.

TV and Film Roles

Richard Jeni also ventured into acting, both on TV and film. He starred in his own sitcom, Platypus Man, on UPN in 1995, based on his HBO special of the same name. The show was about a chef who hosted a cable cooking show and dealt with his personal life. The show lasted for only one season, but it earned Jeni a nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy Series at the CableACE Awards.

He also appeared in several movies, mostly in supporting roles. His most notable film role was as Charlie Schumaker, Jim Carrey’s best friend in The Mask (1994). He also played himself in The Aristocrats (2005), a documentary about a notorious dirty joke. He had roles in other films, such as National Lampoon’s Dad’s Week Off (1997), An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1998), and Chasing Robert (2007).

Personal Life and Mental Illness

Richard Jeni was never married, but he had a long-term girlfriend named Amy Murphy, who was a weather anchor and reporter for KTTV in Los Angeles. They lived together in West Hollywood, California.

Jeni suffered from severe clinical depression and psychotic paranoia for several years before his death. According to his family, he had been diagnosed with the condition shortly before he died. He had been taking medication and seeing a psychiatrist, but his condition worsened over time. He became paranoid about his career, his health, and his relationship. He also had suicidal thoughts and attempted to kill himself several times.

Death and Aftermath

On March 10, 2007, Richard Jeni shot himself in the head with a .38-caliber revolver at his home. He was 49 years old. His girlfriend found him bleeding on the bathroom floor and called 911. She told the operator that her boyfriend had just shot himself in the face. Police and paramedics arrived at the scene and rushed Jeni to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he died.

His death was ruled as a suicide by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. No suicide note was found at the scene. His family issued a statement confirming that Jeni had killed himself because of his mental illness. They said: “Richard brought us all a lifetime of laughter; our hearts are broken.”

His death shocked and saddened the comedy world and his fans. Many of his fellow comedians paid tribute to him online and on stage. Jay Leno dedicated an episode of The Tonight Show to him and said: “He just made me laugh … When you were in a room with other comics he made them laugh.” Chris Rock said: “Richard Jeni was a friend, a mentor and one of the best comedians I’ve ever seen … I’m really gonna miss him.” George Carlin said: “He was one of my favorite comedians … He was smart, he was original, he was funny as hell.”

Richard Jeni’s legacy lives on through his comedy albums, DVDs, and videos. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest stand-up comedians of all time. He was ranked #57 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time in 2004. He influenced many comedians who came after him, such as Bill Burr, Jim Gaffigan, and Kevin James. He is remembered for his brilliant and hilarious jokes, his charismatic and energetic stage presence, and his warm and generous personality. He is also remembered for his tragic and untimely death, which raised awareness about mental health issues among comedians and the general public.

Doms Desk

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