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Richard Jeni
Kevork Djansezian  /  AP
Richard Jeni was a friend of and writer for comedian Chris Rock.
updated 3/12/2007 9:55:58 PM ET 2007-03-13T01:55:58

An autopsy was performed Monday on comic Richard Jeni but the cause of his death won’t be known for several weeks, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

Jeni died Saturday from an apparent gunshot wound. He was 49.

“It was reported to us as a possible suicide,” coroner’s Capt. Ed Winter said Monday. He did not disclose what kind of weapon was used.

No suicide note was found, said Lt. Fred Corral of the coroner’s office’s investigative division.

Jeni died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Winter said. Los Angeles Police found Jeni alive but gravely injured after responding to a call that morning from a woman who said: “My boyfriend just shot himself in the face.”

Jeni’s agent, Jackie Miller-Knobbe of the APA Talent Agency, said workers there were “completely shocked.”

The agency released a statement Monday calling Jeni’s death “a true loss to the world of comedy.”

“He was one of the great stand-up comedians of our generation,” the statement said. “His kindness and joy will be missed.”

Besides his stand-up act, Jeni (real name Richard John Colangelo), was a regular on “The Tonight Show,” a guest of both Johnny Carson and Jay Leno.

“He had an everyman kind of appeal,” Leno told the TV show “Extra.” “He just made me laugh. ... When you were in a room with other comics he made them laugh.”

Jeni also wrote comic material for the 2005 Academy Awards, when Chris Rock was host, and appeared in an episode last year of Rock’s TV sitcom, “Everybody Hates Chris.”

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“Richard Jeni was a friend, a mentor and one of the best comedians I’ve ever seen,” Rock said in a statement Sunday. “I’m really gonna miss him.”

Frazer Smith, a comic who had opened for Jeni, called him “one of the best stand-up comedians in the last 50 years.”

“He had tons and tons of material,” Smith said. “He was looked up to by all the young comedians — a total pro.”

“Richard brought us all a lifetime of laughter,” Jeni’s family said in a statement Monday. “Our hearts are broken.”

Jeni drew national attention in 1990 with his Showtime special “Richard Jeni: Boy From New York City.” His “Crazy From the Heat” Showtime special drew record ratings for the cable channel.

Jeni went on to craft comedy specials for HBO, including 1992’s “Platypus Man,” which won a Cable ACE award and served as the basis for Jeni’s short-lived UPN sitcom of the same name. His most recent special, “A Big Steaming Pile of Me,” ran during HBO’s 2005-06 season.

Jeni’s film credits include “The Mask,” “The Aristocrats,” “National Lampoon’s Dad’s Week Off” and “Burn, Hollywood, Burn.”

“What a loss and what a shame, as someone who gave so much laughter and joy, that he couldn’t find enough to give it to himself,” comedian David Brenner said Monday.

Jeni said he was drawn to comedy because of his father’s love of the genre.

“My interest in comedy began as an attempt to imitate his behavior in one of a string of futile attempts to bond with him,” Jeni said last year. “When he was at work I’d sneak out the comedy albums and sit there listening, enthralled. ... It was so naughty and raucous and, best of all, forbidden — very appetizing to a kid — kind of like an X-rated treehouse. I was hooked.”

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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