Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Day Three: Flashes of Anger and Attempts at Understanding

This situation with Richard Jeni caught my people in the comedy world by surprise, but notes are being compared and I've heard some things that make it sound like a mental problem. If it's not driven by drugs, then I can be understanding about that, especially if you give me a few days. My people in Colorado say he was showing up at radio interviews and acting weird and paranoid lately. He also began canceling gigs. This was echoed by a comedian in Florida who said he made it to town but didn't make the gig. If it was a mental breakdown that's one thing - that's a tough break. If it's drugs, that's going to take longer. At this point, I think I've almost heard enough to clear the girlfriend, pending the final investigation. Of course, no suicide note and shot in the face? Who kills themselves like that?

Who knows what really happened? I guess I assume someone who has the sense to analyze the world using humor must automatically have it together. Oh sure, you get your substance abuse problems like with George Carlin, but even that was somewhat of a shock. How can people so brilliant at seeing what is screwed up in things, not be able to analyze what's not right with their own lives?

Then there was Leno's words on the subject, plus a clip. Jay seemed fine during the monologue and through the tribute part, but after they came back and did something at the desk, his eyes told the story. He was hurt bad on this, and that makes me feel awful. He's really remarkably cheerful, this Leno guy. He loves doing comedy and he's just a force of nature, outworking everyone I've ever heard of in the comedy field. So to see his eyes like that - small, devastated, and tired looking - made me very sad. After last night I can project to what he'll look like at 70.

At least, you can count on Leno to keep his personal life together. Frankly, I worry about the motorcycles, but I have complete trust in him to keep himself stable, and isn't that part of the deal with liking someone? "I'm not going to like you, if you're only going to destroy yourself and hurt me doing it." Isn't that how it goes?

Can comedians please make some kind of pledge? If you're going to lull us into liking you with the laughs - if you're going to ask us to love you in a sense for your humor and joy - would you agree to die in a way that isn't this ugly? Is that so much to ask? Slip on a banana peel or have a safe drop on you. Anything, but keep it light for Christ sake. Keep it consistent.

And if you're spinning out of control with some mental problem, tell us and prepare us for what lies ahead. Do not just cruise along with the laughs and then pull something this ugly. The overall feeling is that we've been set up and tricked. It's one thing when a criminal shoots himself in the face after a long ugly life, but to go from the laughs to this is not right, and goddamn it, it's not funny.

Oh, and the people around the comedian: If you sense he or she is heading into a dark place mentally, please get the comedian help. We all know Jonathan Winters had mental problems. Tell us and let us all help the person. We can be there and help.

It makes you not trust people. When something this awful happens out of the blue, it makes everything else seem less real. Who can you trust not to take you into something like this set of emotions? What else to this story is there?

These days when I hear bad news there's the Monday version where it's just horrible but then I sit around waiting for it to get worse. You start anticipating the Thursday version where we find out he had a pound of cocaine up his ass and was sleeping with a 13-year-old horse. You know, you stop trusting reality.

I had no idea there was a problem here. With all the f-ing entertainment celebrity shows, somebody should have informed me that there was a problem here, so I wouldn't get blind-sided by something like this. Is that too goddamn much to ask?

Thank you. Sorry to vent, but this was a shock.


At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not a problem Bill - thanks for letting me at least listen.

BTW: the range of this blog continues to impress.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

I've heard from another source today and this was a mental thing: Anxiety, medications, etc...Too bad. Now I just feel sorry for the guy, and the anger is gone. Richard Jeni was in bad shape.

At 10:35 PM, Blogger jackbogsblog said...

One thing that's hard not to notice about great comedy is that there's often -- I'd even say usually -- anger, hurt, and/or fear underneath. You look at Kinison, Letterman, Woody Allen, Jack Paar, Roseanne, Pryor, Tomlin, Rock, Farley, Belushi, Buddy Hackett -- see anybody there who loves themselves and feels good about where they are? It's a struggle for them to keep it together, but they'll make you laugh 'til you wet your pants. It's not a coincidence.

Leno's kind of an anomaly -- I think of Winters as closer to the norm.

It sucks. Condolences.


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