Richard Jeni

March 13, 2007

The great comedian Richard Jeni is dead. He reportedly took his own life this past Saturday.

I was fortunate enough to see him live, a few years back. A bunch of us went out to see him at Charlie Goodnight’s Comedy Club in Raleigh, NC. We had bought tickets in advance on the advice of my room mate.

“C’mon, you don’t remember Platypus Man? We gotta go see him, he’s hilarious.”

Then 9/11 happened.

The show was three weeks later and the country was still in a somber mood. We had so many questions, sitting, waiting for the attack we were sure was going to come. Everyday tasks seemed especially mundane when compared with what tomorrow might bring.

Due to the prevailing mood, everyone at the club seemed especially excited about the upcoming night of comedy. But behind that was an undercurrent of trepidation. How would the three comedians address the tragedy? It was the only thing anyone had talked about for the last three weeks, it seemed impossible that the topic wouldn’t be broached that night.

The two openers made little mention of the hijackings, maybe a muttered comment or two. I don’t remember anything about them. I have no memory of their sets or what they even looked like.

After the break, Richard Jeni came out. I immediately recognized him from television. He was dressed in this great black suit and he honestly froze the room with his presence as he walked up and spoke into the microphone. His timing was perfect.

“There are two things I hate. Racial Profiling and Arabs on my airplane.”

He did it. He hit exactly the right chord. The room burst into laughter as he launched into his piece about the hijackings. He discussed the fact that he felt compelled to talk about it and how meaningless it was to make fun of things like celebrity gossip or and how this was a chance to talk about something that mattered, something that needed to be discussed.

It was absolutely cathartic. He gave us exactly what we needed, a chance to deal with things as Americans tend to do, with humor. People laughed, people cried, and they did it all together.

It turned out to be one of the most memorable evenings of my life.

Thanks Mr Jeni. Rest in Peace.


One comment

  1. It seems unfair that a man who makes people laugh died as a result of clinical depression.

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