Richard Jeni

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Richard Jeni
Birth name Richard John Colangelo
Born (1957-04-14)April 14, 1957[1]
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died March 10, 2007(2007-03-10) (aged 49)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Medium Improv/Stand up
Nationality United States of America
Years active 1982–2007
Genres Comedy
Notable works and roles Charlie Schumaker in The Mask
Himself in Platypus Man

Richard John Colangelo (April 14, 1957[1] – March 10, 2007), better known by the stage name of Richard Jeni,[2] was an American stand-up comedian and actor.

Early life

Richard Jeni was raised in an Italian-American Roman Catholic family in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.[3] 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.[4]


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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]


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[2] 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.[2]

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."[10] 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."[11]

Jeni's death was marked by many tributes, including thousands of messages on his website and YouTube as well as on the radio.[12] 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[13] 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.[5]


HBO specials

  • Richard Jeni: Platypus Man (1992)
  • Richard Jeni: A Good Catholic Boy (1997)
  • Richard Jeni: A Big Steaming Pile of Me (2005)

Showtime specials

  • Richard Jeni: Boy from New York City (1990)
  • Richard Jeni: Crazy from The Heat (1992)


  1. 1.0 1.1 DOB according to Jeni's Website and Social Security Death Index.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ryan, Jack (June 27, 2007). "A Comedian's Sad Demise - Coroner: Before suicide, Richard Jeni was involuntarily hospitalized". The Smoking Gun. Retrieved 2007-06-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Richard Jeni". 2007. Archived from the original on 2006-10-16. Retrieved 2007-03-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Jeni Stumbles Into Comedy And Winds Up On Showtime August 18, 1989|By HANK GALLO, New York Daily News
  5. 5.0 5.1 Jeni is topping the bill, one last time March 26, 2007|Geoff Boucher | Times Staff Writer
  7. "Chasing Robert".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. ""Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time" at IMDB".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Amy Murphy Biography." Retrieved on November 2, 2012.
  10. "Family Says Jeni Committed Suicide." Associated Press via Washington Post. March 13, 2007. Retrieved on March 13, 2007.
  11. "Coroner's Report: Jeni Was Mentally Ill." Associated Press via Washington Post. June 29, 2007. Retrieved on August 16, 2009.
  13. Larry King Live transcript with Bill Maher on March 12, 2007

External links