TV Guide has called Richard Jeni "flat-out hilarious" and People Magazine has called him "thrilling to watch'. But stand-up comedy is only part of the Richard Jeni story. In the past few years, Richard Jeni has also made his mark as the star of his own TV series, an actor in feature films, and an award-winning television host.
Richard Jeni burst onto the national scene in 1990 with his first Showtime Special "Richard Jeni: The Boy From New York City". The show received three Cable ACE Awards (the awards for cable excellence) nominations. Two years later, he followed up with his second one-hour concert for Showtime, "Richard Jeni: Crazy from the Heat", which was the highest-rated stand-up special in Showtime's history. During this period, Richard Jeni was also becoming a favorite guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. After a couple of white-hot stand-up appearances on the show, Johnny moved Richard up to the status of "panel guest". Richard Jeni's banter with Johnny got the kind of desk pounding tears of laughter response from the legendary host that made Richard a fixture on the show. When Jay Leno took over, he kept the working formula of Richard Jeni and The Tonight Show going. During Jay's tenure, Richard Jeni has been on the show more than any other stand-up.
In the early 90's, Richard Jeni's success on cable and network TV caught the eye of HBO President Chris Albrecht who wooed Richard with an offer for a coveted HBO Comedy Hour, the most prestigious showcase available to today's comedians. The result was "Richard Jeni: Platypus Man", an unqualified smash the won the Cable ACE Award for "Best Stand-up Comedy Special" and formed the basis for his network sitcom of the same name. "Platypus Man" ran for one season on the UPN network in 1995.
Throughout the 90's, awards and accolades continued to pile up and Richard Jeni's growing popularity was making him a sold-out attraction in concert venues. A particular thrill was when George Carlin handed Richard the American Comedy Award for "Best Male Stand-up" on ABC TV. He hosted A&E's "Caroline's Comedy Hour" for two years and the show won the Cable ACE Award for "Best Stand-Up Comedy Show". Richard Jeni hosted the infotainment series "What A World" for The Learning Channel and was nominated for "Best Magazine Host". He became a popular guest on all the major talk shows while sprinkling in stints as a sardonic and hilarious correspondent for "Entertainment Tonight".
Richard Jeni made his feature film debut co-starring as Jim Carrey's best friend in the blockbuster hit, "The Mask". He followed up with the leading roles in "National Lampoon's Dad's Week Off' and 1998's "Burn, Hollywood, Burn". In 1997, Richard Jeni released his long awaited CD entitled "Richard Jeni's Greatest Bits" which is a compilation of his fans favorite material.
Meanwhile, corporate America was tapping Richard Jeni's comedy talents to enhance the bottom line. He starred in commercial campaigns for Certs, Arby's, and won a CLIO Award for his work as a writer/performer in a campaign for the Milk Association. In 1998, a Coca-Cola executive in Atlanta heard some of Richard Jeni's routines on the radio and was inspired to create "Concession Stand-Up Comedy Starring Richard Jeni", a series of short stand-up pieces that ran during the trailers on over 10,000 movie screens in 1998 and were seen by over 48 million people. Richard currently provides the voice for "Max", the animated character who is the TV and radio spokesman for Office Max.
In 1997/98, Richard Jeni returned to HBO for his second comedy hour, "Richard Jeni: A Good Catholic Boy". In it's premiere outing, the show was the fifth highest rated cable program of the week and a non-stop comedy barrage that Entertainment Tonight said, "left the audience dazzled, breathless, and hungry for more". With his fourth special, Richard Jeni was now firmly established at the top of his profession and had amassed a body of work that could be matched by only a tiny handful of his contemporaries - no small trick for a shy kid from Brooklyn.
Richard Jeni grew up in one of the thousands of Italian-American families in the tough lower middle-class neighborhood of Bensonhurst. "We had more Tony's than Phantom of the Opera", says Richard. Although the area is not known for show business, Richard points out with tongue-in-cheek pride, "I went to the High School that they show at the beginning of "Welcome Back Kotter". I hung out in the disco they used in "Saturday Night Fever". It was an interesting neighborhood and probably leads the country in guys with names like "Nicky the Squid Calamari". In my neighborhood, "Goodfellas" was pretty much a home movie. Like most kids who never traveled anywhere, I had a myopic worldview that sheltered my psyche from some of the more brutal aspects of my environment. The fact that people were found murdered and dismembered within walking distance of my house on a regular basis was not particularly alarming because I assumed that the same thing must be going on in, say, Greenwich, CT - wherever the hell that was!"