Comedian Jeni’s Death Under Investigation

Mar 12, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Police are investigating the possible suicide of comedian Richard Jeni, well-known for his regular standup work on “The Tonight Show.” He was 49.

An AP story said police responded to a phone call Saturday from Mr. Jeni’s girlfriend, Norma Eisenman, saying, “My boyfriend shot himself in the face.” When the police arrived at a home in West Hollywood, Mr. Jeni was found gravely injured and taken to a nearby hospital, where he later died.

A Brooklyn native, Mr. Jeni got his big break when Showtime featured him in “Richard Jeni: A Boy From New York City” and later “Crazy From the Heat,” which earned some of the highest ratings in the cable network’s history.

His act caught the eye of Johnny Carson, making him a common face on “The Tonight Show,” where he continued to perform even after host Jay Leno took the reins. Later on Mr. Jeni was picked up by HBO to perform on its comedy hour in a spot titled “Richard Jeni: Platypus Man.”

In an interview with the AP, comedian Frazer Smith, who frequently opened for Mr. Jeni, said, “He was probably one of the best standup comedians in the last 50 years. He had tons and tons of material. He was looked up to by all the young comedians, a total pro.”

Mr. Jeni had a long list of achievements as an actor, including “The Mask,” “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Platypus Man,” “Married … With Children,” “Comedians Unleashed” and, most recently, “Richard Jeni: A Big Steaming Pile of Me.”

In 2004 Mr. Jeni was voted one of the 100 greatest standups of all time by Comedy Central, and in 2005, he helped write material for the Academy Awards, hosted by friend and fellow comedian Chris Rock.

An autopsy was scheduled for today to determine the cause of death.

(Editor: Horowitz)