Richard Jeni (Richard John Colangelo)

Richard Jeni

Richard Jeni was raised in an Italian-American Roman Catholic family in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. He graduated with honors from Hunter College, earning a bachelor’s degree in comparative politics. After graduating, Jeni went on to do public relations work, but was let go from five different firms in two years before doing an open-mic night in Brooklyn and deciding to pursue standup comedy as a career in 1982. Jeni first received recognition through a series of Showtime stand-up specials and frequent appearances on The Tonight Show. After making his Tonight Show debut in 1988 with Johnny Carson, Jeni would return often and later made appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, all told with more appearances than any other stand-up comedian. In 1989, he won Comedy USA`s Best Nightclub Comedian, as voted by comedy club owners and comedians, and his first Showtime special Richard Jeni: The Boy From New York City won a CableACE Award. Top executives at HBO picked up his first appearance on The HBO Comedy Hour in 1992, titled Richard Jeni: Platypus Man. The show was well received, and Jeni returned for two more shows, going on to receive another CableACE Award for one of his HBO specials. Jeni also starred on the short-lived 1995 UPN sitcom Platypus Man and appeared in the Jim Carrey film The Mask. Jeni composed the theme song (“I’m A Platypus Man”) for his TV series. He appeared in The Aristocrats, Dad’s Week Off, An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, and Chasing Robert. He starred in commercial campaigns for Certs and Arby’s, and won a Clio Award for his work as a writer/performer in an advertising campaign for the American Dairy Association.

In 2004, Jeni was ranked #57 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time. On March 10, 2007, Jeni was found by his girlfriend Amy Murphy, a weather anchor and reporter for KTTV in Los Angeles,[9] with a .38 caliber Colt Detective Special between his feet and an apparent self-inflicted handgun wound to the head in the bedroom area of his West Hollywood, California home. Jeni and Murphy had been conversing in bed, discussing breakfast and their plans for the day, when Murphy left to cook breakfast downstairs. After a few minutes she heard the sound of a gunshot, ran upstairs, discovered the body, and called 911. Police and paramedics arrived and transported Jeni to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he died. His family later stated with certainty that the death was a suicide, and that Jeni had recently been diagnosed with “severe clinical depression coupled with fits of psychotic paranoia.” According to the coroner’s report released in June 2007, Jeni had a history of schizophrenia and had been taking antidepressants and a sleeping aid. The report further indicated that his girlfriend heard him talking to himself about a week earlier, saying “just squeeze the trigger.”
Jeni’s death was marked by many tributes, including thousands of messages on his website and YouTube as well as on the radio. Bill Maher, who performed with Jeni as a young comic, dedicated the fifth episode of his HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher to Jeni and discussed his death on Larry King Live On March 12, 2007, Jeni’s death was mentioned on The Tonight Show by Jay Leno, with accompanying footage of Jeni’s last appearance on the show.

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  • April, 14, 1957
  • USA
  • Brooklyn, New York


  • March, 10, 2007
  • USA
  • Los Angeles, California

Cause of Death

  • suicide


  • Moravian Cemetery
  • New Drop, New York
  • USA

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