You may know Richard Jeni. Then again, you may not.
Strung out over the cesspit of '90s consciousness, Jeni's career included various pay-cable comedy specials (award winning!), some sponsorship prostitution and a role as Jim Carrey's annoying friend in the even more annoying special-effects venture, "The Mask." He has stringy hair and bulging eyes, and I like to think of Jeni as the Billy Joel of comedy. But then I don't really like to think of him that much.
On the phone, Jeni sounds a little like a transmission rattling to it's decline. But he's nice, so I like him. Sort of.
"That's how you can spot an alternative paper, the word 'weekly,'" he coughs. "Cuz you can't be alternative every day. Takes a lot out of a guy. Heh, heh, heh."
Heh. Anyway, Jeni's in town this weekend on the obligatory improv-circuit road legging. This is my obligatory leg warming.
"Have you ever seen me perform anywhere?" he hopes.
"Now I've got to explain what I do."
Oh, no you don't. I think these things explain themselves just fine.
"Do you think it's funny when you smash a watermelon?" he Gallaghers. "If you like watermelon smashing, don't come."
Almost instantly Jeni dives into the dreaded topical realm. "Right now, it's all war all the time. That's really it. I'm dead serious," he drops a bomb.
"Are you fair and balanced?"
"I think so, but you know how that goes," he nudges. "Anybody who doesn't agree with you thinks you're unfair."
Oddly, Jeni's a conservative, making this about as much fun as a pedicure with Bill O'Reilly. Send in the spin.
"Let's put it this way. I think that celebrities have a right to speak out about the war. But if you want to be fair about it, the politicians should be able to speak out against the celebrities," he spins. "I think Donald Rumsfeld should be able to come out and say 'I saw "Glitter" and it sucked my ass.'"
Dead silence. Agreement, but dead silence.
"Alright, I know what we're gonna do now," he sweats. "Let's talk about Janeane Garofalo. She's an old buddy of mine. I don't agree with her views, which is kind of weird, and I hope I don't run into her now. Cuz I always thought she was kind of cute, because she has a tattoo. When I see a tattoo, I always think that's a promising sign in a woman. If you see a tattoo, I'm thinking, 'Hey, here's a woman who can make a choice that she'll regret in the future. If she thought that snake on her butt was a good move, she's gonna love me!'"
"She's gonna love my snake on her butt!" I smash a watermelon.
"You can't do jokes in my article!"
"Here's an interesting question," he lies. "However you feel about the war, it's depressing how many people around the world don't like the United States. Because here's a country that is better at selling and marketing than any country ever in history. We're a country that's convinced people that if you put cream on your thighs, they're gonna get smaller. And everybody knows that you can't put cream on a part of your body and change the size of it."
Thud. "Are you suggesting a PR campaign for America?" I throw a life raft.
"Yes, I even have a slogan for our country: 'America -- 30 million illegal aliens can't be wrong.'"
"I think one of the things that happens to the people in America is they think, 'Hey, I'm a pretty nice guy. Why don't those people over in Europe like me?' It's because most people in America are nice people. But the Europeans don't see individual people. They see the symbols of the culture."
"Like our president who can't form a sentence."
"Who's interview is this?"
"How did you get on a soapbox when you're interviewing me?"
I don't use soap.
And here's where I bury the flag with the hatchet and attempt some sense of reasonable relevance. I do, after all, have a drink to finish. Some discussion about his website -- his name, the "com" -- produces a series of painful jokes about the Internet. To which I introduce my favorite website, that of perennial teenage drama, "The Facts of Life." Every episode, every song version. To die for.
"Then you probably know who wrote the theme song to "The Facts of Life."'"
"Omigod, I can't believe you know that." He should know better.
"Here's a quote from Alan Thicke before you go," he senses the end. "I called him up a little while ago and said, 'Hey, Alan, what're you doin'?' He said, 'We've got a movie going.' He was making one of these women-in-peril movies for ABC. 'She's married, she gets raped, then she gets pregnant, and she's not sure whether it was the husband's or the rapist's.'" And here comes the punch line. "'You can keep that going for about an hour-and-a-half.'"
"It was as funny as I thought it was!"
No, dear. No it wasn't.