The news broke this past weekend that Comedian Richard Jeni had died at age 49 of a gunshot wound. The cause of death has not officially been deemed a suicide but the facts coming out certainly point in that direction.
A 911 call was made on Saturday morning from the West Hollywood area. The caller, who was a woman, stated “My boyfriend just shot himself in the face”. It turned out that her boyfriend was comedian Richard Jeni. Jeni was still alive when help arrived and was taken to Cedars Sinai Hospital where he was pronounced dead an hour later.
There was no suicide note found at the scene. There are, however, a couple of theory’s flying around. The first is that this was not a suicide at all. That the comedian was actually murdered and the scene was set up to resemble a suicide. There are absolutely no facts that would support that theory as of right now. The second theory is that Richard Jeni was diagnosed with terminal cancer and opted to end his life before his health got very poor. This theory is backed up by a blurb in an Access Hollywood article where they talk about interviewing a friend of Jeni’s who told them about a Christmas card received this past year in which Jeni had made a donation in the friends name to the American Cancer Society. Until the death is officially ruled one way or the other we can expect to hear additional theories.
The death of Richard Jeni did actually sadden me. I was a teenager in the 1990’s and I absolutely loved stand-up comedy. This was when Jeni came onto the stand-up scene. His first comedy special was aired on Showtime and was titled “Richard Jeni: The Boy from New York City”. The special received 3 Cable ACE Awards.
The next hour long comedy special that Richard Jeni made was also aired on Showtime and was titled “Richard Jeni: Crazy from the Heat”. This was also a huge hit for the comedian and it was also the highest rated comedy special in the history of Showtime.
Around this time Richard Jeni was becoming a regular on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. America loved the chemistry between Johnny and Richard. Johnny Carson must have also enjoyed him because he moved Richard Jeni’s status from “regular” up to “panel guest”. He would have Johnny Carson pounding on his desk with tears streaming down his face. This appreciation of Richard Jeni continued with the new host Jay Leno. Richard Jeni was on the Tonight show with Jay Leno more times than any other stand-up comedian has been to this very day.
Other comics also enjoyed Richard Jeni. He was actually known as a comic’s comic. This is a term used for a comedian that is able to truly entertain other comedians and really make them laugh. It was fitting that Richard Jeni later appeared in the documentary movie “The Aristocrats”. This documented a joke that was known as a “comedian’s joke” but was never really told on stage to the public.
Richard Jeni racked up 4, hour long comedy specials which appeared on Showtime and HBO and has appeared on countless televised comedy shows. His career is truly impressive. He certainly still made me laugh when I saw him.
Richard Jeni’s comedy style was becoming a little outdated. For anyone who is truly a fan of stand-up comedy, you can see that today’s comedy style is more real life. Comedian’s get on stage and they talk about real life stories in a hilarious way. The audience usually finds this style so entertaining because they can truly relate with what is being said.
In my opinion, the changing style of stand-up comedy in no shape or form made Richard Jeni’s style any less hilarious. If I watch any one of Jeni’s stand-up specials till this day I still get laughs from them. I’m sure that some of the cable stations will be airing some of his shows in the next days to come and I will definitely be watching, laughing, and remembering this very funny man.