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Last Updated: Monday, 12 March 2007, 10:22 GMT
US comic dies in apparent suicide
Richard Jeni and Chris Rock
Jeni (left) wrote material when Chris Rock hosted the Oscars in 2005
US stand-up comedian Richard Jeni, who was a frequent guest on the popular Tonight Show and appeared in several films, has died in an apparent suicide.

Los Angeles police said a woman called on Saturday and reported her boyfriend had "just shot himself in the face".

Officers found Jeni, 49, alive but seriously wounded in a West Hollywood home. He died later in hospital.

Police spokeswoman Norma Eisenman said suicide had not been officially confirmed. An autopsy is due on Monday.

Jeni appeared in The Mask as Jim Carrey's best friend and had roles in several other films including The Aristocrats, Burn, Hollywood and National Lampoon's Dad's Week Off.

He was a close friend of comedian Chris Rock, appearing in his sitcom Everybody Hates Chris and writing material for Rock's stint hosting the Oscars in 2005.

But he was best known as a stand-up comedian, regularly playing to sold-out crowds at Hollywood's Laugh Factory.

'Tons of material'

Born in Brooklyn, New York, he first came to attention in 1990 with a 30-minute showcase, Richard Jeni: The Boy From New York, on the US Showtime channel.

He became a regular guest on The Tonight Show during Johnny Carson's reign as host and continued to appear after Jay Leno took over.

Several of his comedy routines were captured for television, with 1992's Platypus Man winning a Cable ACE award for best stand-up comedy special and inspiring a short-lived TV series of the same name.

Frazer Smith, a fellow comedian who often opened for Jeni, said younger acts looked up to him.

"He was probably one of the best stand-up comedians in the last 50 years," said Smith. "He had tons and tons of material."

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