Remembering Comedian Richard Jeni

Comedian Richard Jeni took his own life this week. If you don't know the name, well, that is the only reason I can think of he might have been despondent enough to do what he did.
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On a blog dedicated to the search for truth, justice, and original thinking, it is only fitting to remember one whose life's work was dedicated to the same. Of course, he made his points with such incredible humor and insight, his arguments were irresistible.

On religious wars, "You're basically killing each other to see who's got the better imaginary friend."

Comedian Richard Jeni took his own life yesterday. If you don't know the name, well, that is the only reason I can think of he might have been despondent enough to do what he did.

On relationships, "Honesty is the key to a relationship. If you can fake that, you're in."

He was in his forties. You wish you knew he was diving down that deep, past all logic and reason. You'd grab him and shake him and say, "Hey! You're not getting raped trying to gather firewood in Rwanda! Those people fight to live every day! Don't we see enough crying every night, watching the Iraqis get blown up trying to buy an apple?" But that's the thing about suicide; all that horror, despondency, emptiness, is all the same size once you cross that line at the bottom. So we can't be angry, he surely couldn't look up from where he was at that awful moment, no one who kills himself can.

"My mother never saw the irony of calling me a son of a bitch."

Richard was a rarity in standup comedy this last decade; a comedian who wrote. He crafted whole pieces, whole shows, and brilliant lines. His comedy will live on in favorite bits the way "Who's On First?" (Abbott and Costello), "The Palladium" (Lenny Bruce), "The Seven Words You Can't Say" (George Carlin), "Starbucks" (Jackie Mason), "Mudbone" (Richard Pryor), and all of Lord Buckley's brilliant word paintings, and Chris Rock's and Monty Python's and Bill Hicks' and Sam Kinison's and Robert Schimmel's and Bobby Slayton's hysterical, truthful and gut wrenching comedy will.

On dating, "At least Charles Manson has the decency to look crazy from the moment you meet him."

The thing that made Richard even more unique in comedy was his gentleness. He was so open in his truths that even when he confessed to his frustration with women, or politics, or life, he was so compelling and accessible, you listened and felt. He wasn't "playing" that quality, it was just there, real. He never pushed his viewpoints, he was just thinking out loud, happily for us.

On the far right, "People whose idea of a good time is strapping a dead panda to the front of a Lincoln Navigator and running over everybody in the gay parade."

But he didn't take sides. His bit titled "Political Parties" on his "A Big Steaming Pile of Me" special takes everyone equally to task, and hilariously so; the right, the left, the middle. It's just brilliant. And then he could just muse on things:

(On America's "A Horse With No Name"), "You're in the desert, you got nothing else to do. NAME THE FREAKIN' HORSE!"

"You go to a steakhouse, guess what cow tank."

If you want to see some great comedy, from a great performer, rent or buy some of Rich's specials; "Boy From New York City", "A Big Steaming Pile of Me", "Crazy From the Heat", and many more. He was brilliant. And you'll wonder why you might not have known his name before now, which brings us back to the beginning. Maybe there is nothing worse than not being allowed to use all your gifts, and to finally lose hope after twenty years of watching lesser mortals sail on through. Well, we know there aint no logic or justice in show business, and nobody forced you to get into it, and the worst day in show business is still probably more lucrative and comfortable than the best day in most other jobs. That's what most people hold on to when it's frustrating. I have no idea why he decided to leave, or even if he was in good health. Other friends say he did talk about suicide, but not the why of it. I'm just sorry we lost such a sweet guy, such a clear and original voice, with years and years to go..

Richard Jeni, "The way I see life, it's like we're all flying on the Hindenburg, why fight over the window seats?"

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