Monday, March 12, 2007

Farewell, Platypus Man

Richard Jeni
Originally uploaded by crissy0244.

I was saddened, though not necessarily shocked to hear that Richard Jeni had died of an apparent suicide on Saturday, March 10. He was apparently found by his girlfriend, fatally shot in the face.

The news is apparently such that you can still buy tickets for some of his scheduled shows and there's aren't a huge number of articles about his passing out there yet. Maybe there won't be a huge amount of media coverage, which will only fuel the speculation that Jeni was perhaps despondant about his lack of fame. I guess that would be a part of it, but I am guessing too that there were deeper and darker forces at work. At least some of the comments on the two postings I found (Elayne Boosler on The Huffington Post and Joel Keller on seemed to indicate that Jeni struggled with depression and possibly other serious health issues.

When I was growing up and we finally got cable (which would be sometime in high school, circa 1992), stand-up comedy was everywhere. Every other show on Comedy Central, all over the place on HBO, Comic Relief every year, and so on. Richard Jeni was easily one of my favorites. He was cute, intelligent, and so much fun to watch. I used to repeatedly watch a VHS recording I had of "Platypus Man," his first HBO Comedy Special (he had four altogether). He was that lovable geek before geeks were considred lovable. The male counterpart to being a bridesmaid but never the bride, Richard Jeni had a one season sitcom (also called, "Platypus Man") that never saw the success of "Home Improvement" or "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Of course, the show was probably doomed from the get go. The show aired in 1995 (when people were starting to OD on stand-up, or at least the networks were starting to pull back) and the show was on the brand-new and untested UPN. Richard was not playing himself, but a chef with a "cooking show for guys." It was probably not a true reflection of himself and didn't ring true with his fans. According to Aaron Greenhouse, who has a pretty impressive episode guide for the show, the last episode in 1995 was pre-empted a few times by "Legend" and "Star Trek: Voyager."

I, myself, am guilty of not being as rabid of a fan as I could have been. After "Platypus Man" (the HBO special), I didn't really pay too much attention to what was going on with Richard's career. I'd experience a little thrill when I saw him in a cameo or wonder why meteorologists watch the weather and not meteors. To this day, I still use the National Geographic theme whenever odd phenomena occur that really should be documented by an adventurous and winsome tv personality brandishing a microphone and leading a film crew - "So join us, won't you?"

Thanks for the laughs, Richard Jeni.

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