- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 11, 2007

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Richard Jeni, a standup comedian who played to sold-out crowds, was a regular on the “Tonight Show” and appeared in movies, died of a gunshot wound in an apparent suicide, police said yesterday.

Police found the 45-year-old comedian alive but gravely injured in a West Hollywood home when they responded to a call Saturday morning from Mr. Jeni’s girlfriend, Los Angeles Police Officer Norma Eisenman said.

Officer Eisenman said the caller told police: “My boyfriend shot himself in the face.”

Mr. Jeni died at a nearby hospital.

Officer Eisenman said suicide had not been officially confirmed and the investigation was continuing.

Mr. Jeni regularly toured the country with a standup act and had starred in several HBO comedy specials, most recently “A Big Steaming Pile of Me” during the 2005-06 season.

Another HBO special, “Platypus Man,” won a Cable ACE award for best standup comedy special, and formed the basis for his UPN sitcom of the same name, which ran for one season.

Mr. Jeni’s movie credits included “The Mask,” in which he played Jim Carrey’s best friend, “The Aristocrats,” “National Lampoon’s Dad’s Week Off,” and “An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn.”

He had guest appearances in the TV shows “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Married: With Children,” and updated versions of the game shows “Hollywood Squares” and “Match Game.”

The Brooklyn-born comic first received national attention in 1990 with the Showtime special “Richard Jeni: Boy From New York City.” Two years later, his “Crazy From the Heat” special attracted the highest ratings in Showtime’s history.

Mr. Jeni became a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show” during Johnny Carson’s reign and continued to appear after Jay Leno took over as host.

He also wrote comic material for the 2005 Academy Awards, which were hosted by his friend Chris Rock.

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