In the early 1800s, a man goes to a doctor in London.
"Doctor, I am depressed," he moans. "My existence is dreary, I suffer from melancholy, there is little reason for me to live. Can you prescribe me some medicine?"
The doctor looked at his patient and smiled.
"There is no need for medicines," he said. "What I suggest is you go see Joseph Grimaldi, the clown, at Covent Garden. He is the cure for all that ails you. See him, he will make you laugh like never before, and all your worries and sadness will vanish!"
The patient leaned in. "Doctor," he said sadly, "I am Grimaldi..."
I share this with you, as I have just learned that an old friend, Richard Jeni, has just committed suicide.
Shot himself. Jesus Christ...
Another true story. Sadly.
Richard and I go back a long, long way. Over two decades ago, I booked him for a Just For Laughs Gala, and he brought the house down. His talent and charm were oversized, and after spending two weeks with him in Melbourne, Australia, I convinced him that he was the obvious choice and should take a giant step to inaugurate a new Festival concept, the one-man comedy concert. His "Boy From New York City" show in 1988 marked a new direction for the event, and gave Richard both a mega-hit and an image he would exploit for years to come.
He was, without question, the best "pure" stand-up comic I have ever seen. Smooth, elegant on stage, a brilliant mind and wickedly funny. Unfortunately, he wasn't satisfied being the best of his genre. Always contemplative (we spent hours in the mid-'80s discussing the unjust ways of the world, at first on the balcony of his high-rise condo, and then, after he hit it big, at the expansive pool area of his hill-top home), Richard's curious and profound soul-searching soon led to depression.
I last heard from him just before Christmas. His assistant tracked me down for my new coordinates. Two weeks later, I received a card, but not the standard holiday greeting; it was one that made a sizable donation to charity in the name of all his recipients.
It's ironic--and I feel guilty--that yesterday I laid down that happy post about positive thinking and within it, an over-generalized description of a comedian's psyche. "Miserable, vindictive and depressed," is how I described it.
And today, this.
What a pity. What a waste.
Finally, you found peace, my friend. So sad that this is what it took for you to find it.
One less cure for all that ails us.