Actor Richard Jeni was a popular stand-up comedian with great timing and explosive delivery. He mined his own experiences for his act, often drawing from his New York roots and Catholic upbringing. He caught the nation's attention in his first comedy special, Richard Jeni: The Boy From New York City (1990) and had his first HBO special two years later. In 2007, Jeni took his own life.
Early Life and Career
Comedian, actor and writer Richard Jeni was born on April 17, 1957, in Brooklyn, New York. Jeni was a popular stand-up comedian with great timing and explosive delivery. He mined his own experiences for his act, often drawing from his New York roots and Catholic upbringing. Jeni caught the nations attention with his first comedy special, Richard Jeni: The Boy From New York City (1990), which aired on the Showtime cable network. Two years later, he had his first HBO special, Richard Jeni: Platypus Man (1992).
During the 1990s, Richard Jeni could often be seen on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson and continued appearing on the program after Jay Leno took over. He even hosted Caroline's Comedy Hour for the A&E cable network for two years, from 1992 to 1994. He went on to play a supporting role in the 1994 box office hit The Mask as Jim Carrey's best friend.
In 1995, Richard Jeni tried for sitcom stardom with Platypus Man. The title came from one of his earlier cable comedy specials. He explained the title's meaning: "An adult male human that attempts to mate frequently but spends most of its time alone." While the series failed to take off, Jeni continued to make successful comedy specials, such as Richard Jeni: A Good Catholic Boy (1997) and an episode of Comedy Central Presents in 2002.
Later in his career, Jeni was busy as ever. He had an HBO comedy special in 2005 called Richard Jeni: A Big Steaming Pile of Me. He also wrote material for the Academy Awards for the host of the evening and his friend, Chris Rock, that same year. In 2006, Jeni appeared in an episode of Everybody Hates Chris, a sitcom created by Rock.
Jeni died on March 10, 2007, of a gunshot wound. Fans and friends were shocked by his untimely passing and the revelations about his mental health. Shortly after his death, his family released a statement saying that he had been diagnosed with "severe clinical depression coupled with bouts of psychotic paranoia" earlier this year. The statement also said that "Richard Jeni did take his own life."
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