Harris: We welcome to our guest microphone today, comedian Richard Jeni. Richard is in town for a week of shows at The Improv, which he started last night, and he’ll be there through Saturday night. Also, he has a brand new comedy C…CD out. You have a C and a CD.
Jeni: Yeah, but the C isn’t as complete. There’s no D.
Harris: It’s Richard Jeni’s Greatest Bits. These things are hot again, the comedy CD concept.
Jeni: You wouldn’t know it by me. I guess some of them are.
Harris: What do you mean? The cash ain’t flowing in from this baby yet?
Jeni: That wasn’t made with a really big record company. It was basically a guy with a tape recorder going, “What do you think? Come on, we’ll have donuts and it’ll be fun!”
Harris: He’s got a van in the alley and he hooks up a microphone. It’s not even onstage, it’s from the back of the room.
Jeni: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Every day he calls Tower Records and asks, “Did you sell it yet? Is it still there? Yeah, ‘it’, it’s just the one.” It’s at Tower Records, I think.
Harris: I’m sure that your anthology will do well.
Jeni: Yeah, go there and buy the copy. My anthology?
Harris: First you have to do Jeni Unplugged. Which is almost what this guy apparently did with you!
Jeni: Yeah, he plugged me alright. This is one of those where later on in your career you go, “You know, I made some mistakes.”
Harris: Would you prefer I stop plugging the CD and just talk about the week at The Improv?
Jeni: I would think that that would be a good place to move to, but the CD is available. They could have it in the store, and people could buy it.
Harris: Here’s a good tip for those of you who have shows and are bringing in guests: try to make the first subject something that will make your guest uptight and pissed at you, just to start things off!
Jeni: Remind them of something that’s really annoying. “Rich Jeni’s in the studio. How’s that rash, anyway? We’ll be right back.”
Harris: Let’s move onto something more pleasant. You’re here for a week at The Improv and that means, if I know The Improv, the finest hotel accommodations in town.
Jeni: I always complain about the hotels, but I realized that it doesn’t really matter. They’re basically all the same. There are just some places where the English words “do not disturb” mean “wait until I’m naked and barge in with the vacuum”. The minute you’re naked, the woman comes blasting in…vmmmmmmmmmm…”Lo siento, I sorry, I come back later.” They’re all basically the same place. There’s only two settings on the thermostat: Arctic Circle or hatching baby chicks. Those are the two and there’s no in-between. You’ve either got to sweat through the mattress, or wake up in a room that’s so cold that there’s a penguin sitting on the pillow eating your complimentary mint. You can call down to the front desk and say, “I’m freezing! Help me!” And they’ll say, “Oh, I’m sorry, but there’s a lot of people at the desk.” And you say, “Yeah, well there’s a reindeer watching porno in my room! What’s he doing with his antlers? I didn’t even know they could…” They’re all the same. And you can call room service. The other day I spent $13 on an english muffin and a cup of coffee.
Harris: I know, that’s ridiculous.
Jeni: Thirteen dollars! The guy goes, “That’ll be $13. What else would you like?” And I said, “How about a straw? I’m assuming the nooks and crannies are filled with cocaine, my friend.” How can you charge me that much money for an english muffin? The guy says, “Well, I’m wearing a vest.” I go, “You should be wearing a condom for what you’re doing in here. It’s a muffin, sir.” I’m not complaining, I’m not poor. I have enough money to buy things, but gee whiz, when you get to the $13 muffin level, you’re just making prices up. You’re just down in the kitchen, getting high. They say, “There’s a guy on the phone who wants a burger,” and the cook says, “Yeah, well what floor is he on?” The other guy says, “Six.” Then they say, “How old is your grandmother?” “72.” So they figure, “Okay, tell him it’s $78. Gimme another drink, man!” It’s like they’re just making it up down there.
Harris: [laughing] And you have to wonder if there are people with those prices saying, “Well, that’s perfectly reasonable.” There are people so wealthy that they’re going, “A $13 muffin sounds perfectly right.”
Jeni: Yeah, that’s right in there. It’s a damn good muffin. And it’s all in the presentation. That’s how they get you. It’s like if they bring you up a muffin and it’s got a dome on the top and things like landscaping around it, if it comes with a whole “History of the Muffin” pamphlet. But if they just came in and asked, “Hey, are you the guy with the muffin?” and then just reached into their jackets and pulled it out, then it would be hard to justify the $13 price tag.
Harris: That’s got to be the kind of place that leaves the light on for you, with that kind of service.
Jeni: Exactly. Leave the light on for you. Yeah, alright. “We left the light on for you. We also left the door open. We left the light on, the door open, and there might be another guy in there. It’s kind of a friendly hotel.”
Harris: Sharing is an important concept in the hotel world.
Jeni: I got the Marv Albert suite. What the hell is that all about? Biting people! Was he biting her?
Harris: Well, that’s the allegation. I didn’t know that biting was the newest thing this year. I don’t get the trend newsletter anymore and I don’t know if you get it out at your place in California.
Jeni: Oh, yeah, biting is big. I just bit the receptionist on the way in here. You should be getting a letter. She just said hi, and I just went roar! I think I still have a piece of her ear with me. Yeah, you’ve got to bite people. It’s very important.
Harris: So, this week at The Improv is to get ready for your HBO special next month. This is like people coming to see you as you’re doing your material and getting it all in shape. This is like workout week for you.
Jeni: Yeah, that’s why I’m here for the whole week. You know that I usually don’t come in for a whole week. Usually it’s just a weekend. But on August 9th, I’m taping an HBO Comedy Hour called “Richard Jeni Non- Stop” and it will be on in October on HBO. This is a good time to come out.
Harris: This is the dress rehearsal.
Jeni: Yeah, that’s right.
Harris: You get to see the stuff that’s going to be cut out of the live show.
Jeni: Yeah, that’s right. That’s why you’re on the radio.
Harris: Thank you. I’m a word-smith. How about the movie career? How is that going? The last time you were here, you had just been in The Mask, a super monster big hit, and we said, “What about “The Mask 2″?” and you said, “They haven’t called yet.” Has anybody called?
Jeni: No, I haven’t heard from them about “The Mask 2”. But I did another movie in the meantime called “National Lampoon’s Dad’s Week Off” with Henry Winkler and Olivia D’Abo. Do you know Winkler?
Harris: Of course I know Winkler. Not personally, though.
Jeni: Oh, I meant personally.
Harris: Oh, no.
Jeni: He’s a character. He’s so not the Fonz. He’s just like a totally neurotic Jew. He’s a really nice guy, but he’s so not the Fonz. He’s the type of guy who sits around in his trailer going, “I shouldn’t have had the cheese. It has cholesterol. I went two days without the cheese.”
Harris: [laughing] Not very Fonz-like.
Jeni: No, you can’t picture the Fonz doing that. I’ve got a new movie coming out this fall called “Burn, Hollywood, Burn”. It stars Whoopi Goldberg, Jackie Chan, me, and Ryan O’Neal.
Harris: Wow! That is a cast! Will it be billed that way? Will it be Whoopi Goldberg, Jackie Chan, Richard Jeni, Ryan O’Neal?
Jeni: I think it will probably be Whoopi Goldberg and Jackie Chan first, and also Stallone because he’s in it too.
Harris: Sly or Frank?
Jeni: [laughing] Yeah, I’m in this movie with Stallone. Yeah, don’t applaud. It’s Frank.
Harris: So “Burn, Hollywood, Burn.” What’s that about?
Jeni: It’s about me and Ryan O’Neal. We play two guys who own a big Hollywood studio and we create a movie that’s the biggest movie of all time. It costs $300 million to make and it stars Sylvester Stallone, Jackie Chan, and Whoopi Goldberg all in the same movie. The director of the movie, played by Eric Idle, thinks that we’re screwing him and we’re changing the movie around, so he burns the master negative of the movie. The reason he burns the master negative of the movie is because if you’re a director in Hollywood and you don’t like your name to be on the movie because you say it sucked, then by Director’s Guild law, the name becomes directed by Alan Smithee. The thing is that this guy’s name, in real life, is Alan Smithee, so he can’t take his name off the movie. And that’s Eric Idle’s part and he goes insane and he burns the movie and he winds up in a lunatic asylum. The whole movie is the story of how that happened and what we did to get it back. We get two black filmakers played by Coolio and Chuck D, who are based on the Singleton brothers, and enlist their help to try and get the movie back. It’s a real hip, inside Hollywood movie. It makes “The Player” look like the common movie. It’s the kind of movie that people either go, “Wow, that’s cool!” or “Wow, that was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Harris: Not a lot of middle ground there.
Jeni: It’s not going to be a movie that you go, “Eh, that was kind of good.” It will be the kind of movie that you say, “Whoa, that was so cool to see Stallone and Whoopi talking to the camera and all that weird stuff.” It’s shot in the half documentary style.
Harris: Eric Idle must be just great to work with.
Jeni: Eric Idle I always thought was a funny, funny guy. I wasn’t in a lot of scenes with Eric Idle. Like I said, a lot of it is documentary, so a lot of Eric Idle’s stuff is just Eric Idle alone, just pacing around a lunatic asylum talking about what happened.
Harris: But in real life, he’s not a neurotic Jew, is he?
Jeni: In real life, he’s actually a black guy, which is even odder. It’s a testament to his acting ability. He is actually a Jamaican man and he just becomes Eric Idle in front of the camera.
Harris: [laughing] Who would have guessed that Monty Python…
Jeni: Oh, yeah, he’s walking around before the scene going, [in Jamaican accent] “Okay, mon, are we ready?” And then, boom, they turn on the cameras and he’s like, [in British accent] “I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay! I sleep all night and I work all day!”
Harris: I was talking with Richard about the Mike Tyson fight because he saw it on tape and I saw it about a week later on Showtime. Neither of us actually saw it live on pay-per-view. It was quite an event, and now here we are, about two and a half weeks after the event, and we have another Tyson story in the news. Somebody, as a prank, mailed him a pig’s ear. They wrote his address on it with a felt-tip pen and put a stamp right on the ear
Jeni: That’s why those postal workers snap, you know. They say, “That’s it. An animal ear! Get my gun!” That’s the way they snap over there at the post office.
Harris: It kind of makes you wonder what Frank Gifford is getting in the mail.
Jeni: What are they sending Marv Albert? They actually do sell pig ears. I’ve seen them. If you go to a grocery store in a small southern town…I’m not talking about someplace like Atlanta, because you’ve got your southern towns that are big cities and you’ve got your southern towns that are like, “Does anybody know what a bagel is? It’s a dog, isn’t it?” I went to a grocery store once and they were selling pig ears right there with the food. Seven in a pack. Just think about that. Seven. Somewhere, there’s a one-eared pig running around, going, “Ha! I was too fast for them! They almost got me, but not me, not Arnold! I’ve still got one ear left.”
Harris: How do you suppose you prepare pig ears for consumption?
Jeni: That’s the interesting question. It’s not cafe society, is it, when you’re whipping out the pig ears for dinner.
Harris: You come home from a long day of work, “Oh, man, I can’t wait to get home and have me some of them pig ears. My wife grills them up good.”
Jeni: What do you serve them with? It’s all pretty disgusting when you think about it. Even ham. What is that? It’s a pig’s butt! It’s just all what you call it, isn’t it? It’s all how you describe it. Ham is a pig’s butt. That’s what that is.
Harris: It’s one of those things where at a certain point, wherever it comes from, it just tastes delicious, and damn it, I’m going to eat it. I just don’t want to know.
Jeni: Yes, well, we don’t eat the pig. What do they eat? They eat only part of the pig?
Harris: No, no pig. There will be no pork products.
Jeni: They only eat a pig if it’s a doctor. Only if it’s been to college and it knows people.
Harris: There are all sorts of disgusting foods like that. What’s the Scottish food that’s made from the sheep’s stomach?
Jeni: That would be called haggis.
Harris: Wow, you knew that like you’ve eaten it.
Jeni: What do we have for him, Bob?! I’ve got a better question for you: Do you think they have phone sex in Scotland? Do you think you turn on your television and there’s the woman going, [in Scottish accent] “Are you lonely? Call me, ya bastard! I’ll get under your kilt for ya! It’s a wee charge on your card, there, laddy!” That’s a more interesting question to me.
Harris: I think it is.
Jeni: Did you see “Braveheart?”
Harris: No, I didn’t.
Jeni: What a great movie. You’ve got to go see that.
Harris: Is this the one with Mel Gibson blue-faced?
Jeni: Yeah, Mel Gibson plays a Scottish freedom fighter, and what a guy. You’re watching the movie and he’s the bravest guy you ever saw. You feel like such a wimp. You’re just sitting there saying, “Wow, this guy is way tougher than me and he has a plaid skirt and hair extensions.” You’re going, “Wow, if I were in the movie, it would be called Brave-Up-To-A-Point-Heart.” I’m pretty sure that I would crack under torture. How about yourself?
Harris: One question and I’m giving up the details to every missile complex in the world.
Jeni: Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing. They had an axe, at the end of the movie, a big medieval farm axe, pointed at his crotch and they’re going to use it on him. They go, “If you say mercy we won’t…” ya know, do it. And he’s not answering.
Harris: He’s not saying mercy.
Jeni: No, and I’m thinking it’s one word! Just say it! You’ll be Debbie Gibson if you don’t. They’ve got an axe on his ween, and I’m thinking, “What is the delay? How hard is this to answer?” It’s like a multiple choice. A: Do you want a big axe on your ween…and you go, “Hey, I think I already know the answer is B!” You haven’t heard B, but it’s not A! I’ll take a chance. How hard could that be?
Harris: It ain’t Final Jeopardy at this point.
Jeni: No! He had an axe on his ween and he wouldn’t tell them one word that they wanted to hear. And I can tell you, I got a prostate exam, I confessed to the Kennedy assassination. I heard that glove snap and I was like, “Okay, it was me. I did it. I was 3 and I acted alone. Back off, you fist-o-saurus.” I made the mistake that men make at the prostate exam.
Harris: What is that?
Jeni: You get nervous, you get scared, you tighten up, and things are going to hurt more. If you want the prostate exam to go well, you’ve got to get psyched up. You’ve got to go in there like a wrestler talking trash. You’ve got to just kick the door open, “All right, Weinberg, I’m ready to party! I heard you talking about me out in the waiting room. It’s time to stop the joking and start the poking! You want some of this, come on! No glove! Let’s see what you got!” Then it doesn’t hurt. You know what I mean? You get excited.
Harris: See, I would have gone relaxed, but you went excited and it worked for you.
Jeni: Yeah, you get psyched and then it doesn’t hurt. I was in there, I had to get one of those things. I was thinking, “I’m not going to make this hurt, I’m just going to get psyched up.” Did you ever get a test for chlamydia? Did this ever happen to you?
Harris: I beg your pardon?
Jeni: Did you ever get a chlamydia test?
Harris: There’s a sentence I’ve never even used. No, I never have.
Jeni: Do you know what chlamydia is? It’s a common form of VD that has no symptoms in a man.
Harris: How would they check to know that you had it?
Jeni: I’m going to tell you. Listen to this. I was having a little trouble. I was like, I don’t know, just my worm was a little under the weather. It just wasn’t feeling like its usual self.
Harris: Had you tried yelling mercy?
Jeni: [laughing] Yeah! So I go to the doctor and I said, “What do you think it could be?” And he says, “I don’t know, I’ll have to check you for all these different things.” So they do all these different things. Then they go, “We should also test you, while you’re here, for chlamydia because it doesn’t have any symptoms. You could have it and not even know it.” I said “All right, go ahead, whatever you’ve got to do. And what is that thing that you’re taking out of the drawer there?”
Jeni: It’s a needle. And I said, “Whoa, what are you going to do with that?” Well, he says, “We’re going to put it in the hole of your peen and swish around for a while…”
Jeni: And I go, “No!”
Jeni: I said, “Come on, where is the hidden camera? This is the part where you tell me that you were only pretending that you were going to put that thing…”
Harris: You tell this joke at the doctor convention.
Jeni: Oh my God, that’s when you go out and you just buy a case of condoms to avoid that test. Luckily, by the way, if there’s any girls listening, no, I didn’t have any diseases.
Harris: Good. Everything came back negative.
Jeni: Oh my God, up the hole of your…
Harris: All right! Fine! We got the picture!
Jeni: That is just wrong! Basically wrong!
Harris: That’s an output valve, the last time I checked.
Jeni: I have a friend who has AIDS and this guy is constantly ill. He’s constantly in the hospital for this thing or that thing, and I told him this story. He goes, “I know. I had that test. That’s the worst thing that they ever did to me!” This guy, every week he’s got a lung, this, or another thing, and even he was freaking out. I don’t feel so bad that I wimped out and screamed.
Harris: I’m making a note here to never ever ever ever ever ever get chlamydia.
Jeni: No, you can get it, just don’t get tested for it. Getting it doesn’t hurt at all. Getting it is kinda fun, actually!
Harris: [laughing] Comedian Richard Jeni. You’ve got to see him in person. Thanks for coming in again, Richard.
Jeni: My pleasure, Paul. Thanks for having me on.
Copyright 1997, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Danny Guzman.