Richard Jeni

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Richard Jeni
Birth nameRichard John Colangelo
Born(1957-04-14)April 14, 1957[1]
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedMarch 10, 2007(2007-03-10) (aged 49)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
MediumImprov, stand-up
Years active1982–2007
Notable works and rolesCharlie Schumaker in The Mask
Himself in Platypus Man

Richard John Colangelo (April 14, 1957[1] – March 10, 2007), better known by his stage name Richard Jeni, was an American stand-up comedian and actor.

Early life[edit]

Jeni was born and raised in an Italian-American Roman Catholic family in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.[2] 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.[3]


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 returned often and later made appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, with more appearances than any other stand-up comedian.[4] 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.[5]

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 starred in 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.[6] He starred in commercial campaigns for Certs and Arby's, and he 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.[7]


On March 10, 2007, Jeni was found by his girlfriend, Amy Murphy, a weather anchor and reporter for KTTV in Los Angeles, with a .38-caliber Colt Detective Special between his feet and an apparent self-inflicted handgun wound to the head[8] on the bathroom floor in 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 Jeni's condition, and called 9-1-1.[8]

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."[9] 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."[10]

Jeni's death was marked by many tributes, including thousands of messages on his website and YouTube as well as on the radio.[11] 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.[4] On March 16, Bill Maher, who had performed with Jeni as a young comic, dedicated the fifth episode of the fifth season of his HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher, to Jeni and discussed his death on Larry King Live.[12]


Television series[edit]

HBO specials[edit]

  • Richard Jeni: Platypus Man (1993)
  • Richard Jeni: A Good Catholic Boy (1997)
  • Richard Jeni: A Big Steaming Pile of Me (2005)

Showtime specials[edit]

  • Richard Jeni: Boy from New York City (1989)
  • Richard Jeni: Crazy from The Heat (1991)[13]

Other works[edit]

  • OfficeMax commercial (voice) (1995–1999)
  • Certs commercial
  • Coca-Cola commercial for concession stands at the movie theater (1997)


  1. ^ a b DOB according to Jeni's Website and Social Security Death Index.
  2. ^ "Richard Jeni". Barber & Associates. 2007. Archived from the original on October 16, 2006. Retrieved March 11, 2007.
  3. ^ "Jeni Stumbles Into Comedy And Winds Up On Showtime". Sun Sentinel. Deerfield Beach, Florida. April 18, 1989. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  4. ^ a b Boucher, Geoff (March 26, 2007). "Jeni is topping the bill, one last time". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  5. ^ Lannert, John (December 27, 1991). "Comic Richard Jeni To Hail New Year In West Palm". Sun Sentinel. Deerfield Beach, Florida. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  6. ^ "Chasing Robert".[dead link]
  7. ^ Lawson, Joseph F. (October 19, 2021). "Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time". IMDb. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  8. ^ a b Ryan, Jack (June 27, 2007). "A Comedian's Sad Demise – Coroner: Before suicide, Richard Jeni was involuntarily hospitalized". The Smoking Gun. Retrieved June 27, 2007.
  9. ^ "Family Says Jeni Committed Suicide". The Washington Post. Associated Press. March 13, 2007. Retrieved March 13, 2007.
  10. ^ "Coroner's Report: Jeni Was Mentally Ill". The Washington Post. Associated Press. June 29, 2007. Retrieved August 16, 2009.
  11. ^ Brand, Madeleine; Chadwick, Alex (March 13, 2007). "Comedian Richard Jeni Dies". Day to Day.
  12. ^ "Larry King Live Interview with Bill Maher". CNN Transcripts. March 12, 2007.
  13. ^ "Richard Jeni: Crazy from the Heat (TV Special 1991)". IMDb.

External links[edit]