Richard Jeni (born Richard John Colangelo, April 14, 1957-March 10, 2007) was an American Comedian and Actor. He appeared as a semi-regular panelist on the late 1990s revival of Match Game.
Born Richard John Colangelo in Brooklyn, New York. He was raised in an Italian-American Roman Catholic family. 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, Richard 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 which 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. Richard also starred on the short-lived 1995 UPN sitcom Platypus Man as well as composing the theme song ("I'm a Platypus Man") for the series. He appeared in the Jim Carrey film The Mask as Charlie Schmumaker. He's also appeared in the 1997 movie An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn. 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.
Jeni appeared as a semi-regular panelist on the 1998-1999 revival of Match Game and also appeared as a celebrity panelist on Hollywood Squares afterwards.
In 2004, Jeni was ranked #57 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.
On March 10, 2007, Richard was found by his girlfriend Amy Murphy, who was 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 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 Jeni's body, and immediately called 911.
Police and paramedics arrived and transported Jeni to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he later died. His family later said in a statement 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, Richard 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 emotional 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, two days after Jeni's death, Jay Leno paid an emotional tribute on The Tonight Show with accompanying footage of his last appearance on the show. He was only 49 years old.