Harris: We welcome to our guest microphone, comedian Richard Jeni, an old friend of ours, who’s in town to do some shows this weekend at The Improv and I’m guessing just came in from LA.
Jeni: Yes I have, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine city…Do you get out there much?
Harris: I have not been to LA in a very long time, no.
Jeni: People have totally lost their minds.
Harris: What do you mean?
Jeni: Well everybody’s kinda like, Earthquake, we don’t care. Fire, no problem. Tidal wave, get my hat. Because I’m not afraid anymore of…Is that a cigarette? Run, run! There’s smoke near us! Oh my God, I feel faint! Someone get me a pasta salad and a motivational cassette tape! Here’s the weird thing though: cigarette smoking, disgusting; cigar smoking, totally cool.
Harris: I know! What happened there?
Jeni: I don’t know, especially now, women are smoking cigars, which I think is great. You know, whenever I’m in an intimate situation with a pretty girl, I want her to remind me as much of Edward G. Robinson as possible. I want a woman in a nightie with a big pushup bra with a big stogie going, [in Edward G. Robinson’s voice] Alright, here’s the way it’s gonna be, see. Let’s get going, I got no time for foreplay. I got places to go people to see. Okay, now suck my toes, see, all of them. The big one, the small one, the long one with the hook that’s deformed. AHHH. And I don’t want a pregnancy, so at the end you pull it out of there, scram, beat it…blahh! And don’t go tell your friends about what happened, see, don’t go blabbin’, nobody likes a rat, see. So, you know, that’s where I live, my town.
Harris: Yeah, a fine town.
Jeni: A fine town it is, not quite as good as Washington, people are just very serious here aren’t they? Pardon me, I’m here with the Department of Very Important Crap, out of my way, thank you.
Harris: Yeah, we do have a lot of federal departments here.
Jeni: Soon it’ll be either Clinton or Dole!
Jeni: Yeah, wow, one guy never inhaled and the other guy won’t be inhaling much longer. But what can you do, this is our political system.
Harris: Do people come to you for endorsements, are politicians lining up, knocking on the door? We’d like the Jeni vote if we possibly could…
Jeni: Yeah, in fact, like an alderman from Kentucky Is there some way you could stop down and say something nice about my wife? No, I don’t get a lot of big problems with people asking me. I did perform at the White House when George Bush was president.
Harris: And what’s that like, do they frisk you, is the Secret Service really uptight about security?
Jeni: Yeah, they are, very much so. in fact, after every joke, they come up and frisk you which really screws up your timing. No, it was actually very fun. Quayle was there, Quayle was cool, Quayle was like a regular guy who’d come up to you after a show. He was just going: I remember you, you’re like the guy who just did that funny stuff kinda guy… And Bush punched me in the chest.
Harris: What do you mean?
Jeni: He’s like a real Yale-ee type of….
Harris: You mean he was like Hey guy how are you?
Jeni: He was like Hey buster how ya’ doin’ that was really good…
Harris: Buster…who uses the word buster anymore!!!
Jeni: Me. He didn’t actually say it, I was saying it for effect.
Harris: I want to ask you about this thing that’s on TV this weekend because you’ve worked in TV…
Jeni: Yes I have.
Harris: All right, do you have Beast fever?
Jeni: Do I have Beast fever? No, I have a rash but I don’t think it has anything to do with The Beast. I used a condom.
Harris: Do you know about this thing on Sunday night? Peter Benchley’s The Beast.
Jeni: Peter Benchley’s The Beast? No, what is it?
Harris: This is nothing like Peter Benchley’s Jaws. This is a story about people who go out in the ocean and are attacked by an undersea creature and they have to get a craggy old sailor and a scientist to go out and kill this thing, which turns out to be a giant squid.
Jeni: Oh, so it’s a whole different movie then.
Harris: Completely different from Jaws.
Jeni: So this is different because there’s a guy going I’m not talking about tommy cats or blue gills, I’m talkin’ about Beast!
Harris: That’s right! Now, I know you’re fan of the old Jaws movies.
Jeni: [in Robert Shaw’s voice] The shark looks at you with dead eyes. For five I’ll catch ’em. For ten I’ll bag ’em, catch ’em, the whole damn thing. And for fifty I’ll actually bring ’em to your house poached, and dead, and maybe give you some fries with ’em.
Harris: All right! Anyway, Jaws, you love the old Jaws movies?
Jeni: Well, first of all by the time I get home at night from doing a show there’s not a lot of good movies left. It’s usually like, we hope you enjoyed The Godfather and now stay tuned for Zucchini, the Versatile Gourd. But they still try to make the movies sound good. They always have the guy going, Dun, dun, dun — She was a model with a club foot, he was a wine taster with no tongue. Columbia presents Neither Can I. Or, She was an IHOP waitress with a bad wig, he was a rabbi with an automatic weapon…Buttermilk, Burnout, Blitzkrieg!
Jeni: And now, the worst movie of all time. Jaws 4 was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. You ever see a movie where they just…Let’s say you’re beyond stupid. You don’t even have a brain. You’re sitting on your bed, a bucket of popcorn, a spinal cord and that’s all there is. Even your spinal cord would be going back and forth Hey, hey, hey, I’m not a brain or anything, but this movie SUCKS! I was watching this thing [Jaws 4] one night and you realize that two hours of your life go by that you can never get back. You know?
Harris: Right, it’s gone.
Jeni: And you’re sitting there going Maybe this movie isn’t so bad and I’m not wasting my precious time on Earth. And then there’s this movie that kinda slaps you in the face like, Oh yes you are! Look at you, you’re sitting there in one sock watching a movie about a shark that kills one family out of a whole ocean full of perfectly edible people and you won’t turn it off because you’re thinking it’s bound to get better! That’s why you keep watching, you’re sitting there eating popcorn going It can’t be this bad, it must be leading up to something. No, we’re not leading up to something. This is the movie in its entirety!
Jeni: This is the real movie: the mother of the family has three people in her family murdered by a shark in about a week, so she comes up with a plan. This is her plan, Well, a shark is obviously after the family, there’s only one thing left to do, pack up, we’re leaving town. So you’re sitting there eating popcorn going, Leaving town? Pretty severe tactic to avoid a fish. Wouldn’t an apartment building protect you from the average aquatic… I mean this is a real ambitious shark, real determined bastard. By the time he gets out of the water, rents a Barracuda, drives to your house, parks in the shark spot, you would most likely smell fish and split out the back door! So you go, Why doesn’t the mother just not go in the water? Well if we did that the movie would be over. You know where she goes when she leaves town?
Harris: No, where?
Jeni: The Bahamas! Ideal place to avoid a fish. So you’re sitting there and you’re going, The Bahamas? Why didn’t she go to Canada? Because it’s rare you’d be in a dog sled and hear behind you…dun dun dun dun. So this is when I turn it off, she go to the Bahamas, 600 miles a hour. When they get there guess what happens?
Jeni: The shark is already there! A remarkable achievement, not only has he uncovered their travel plan, but he has outrun a 727 jet! And you start throwin’ popcorn at the screen going, Get the heck out of here! This is two hours of my life, dammit! That’s a jet, wouldn’t a jet be faster than a shark? And they go, Well, ordinarily yes, but in this movie, no. The shark is the fastest form of transportation. If you are going to London through New York, screw the Concorde — get the next fish out of town! That’s my life at night, there’s nothing else but these infomercials.
Harris: All right, get one of them turbo-Sharks. Speaking of movies, Richard, when you were making The Mask, Jim Carrey was not a star. Then the movie comes out and BOOM, rocket time for Jim Carrey.
Jeni: I would have become much better friends with him if I knew. As I was just going Stop making faces, get a bagel, go away!
Harris: What about The Mask 2? Is there going to be a sequel?
Jeni: I don’t know, it’s really hard to tell. I’m sure there will be a sequel. Whether I’ll be in it, I don’t know.
Harris: Here’s where smooching some Jim Carrey butt would have paid off.
Jeni: I never should have hit him with that bat. All righty then, hit me with a bat!
Harris: In retrospect it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Jeni: Well, it’s hard to know if I’ll be in the movie because outside of Jim, the only people that became a star, well, the dog became a big star. He totally went Hollywood. He’s at the point now where he’s hired another dog to lick his butt. That’s how huge that dog is! He got a bitch lickin’ his butt.
Harris: Well he heard Jim Carrey had one so he figured….
Jeni: And he figured why not, get over here baby! It was weird being in the movie, though. Doing stand-up is a lot more fun, because in the movie I had to do a stunt. I had to dive into the Port of Los Angeles. They called me up and they go, We have this shot where we want you to dive after the mask into the Port of Los Angeles. Are you familiar with this water?
Jeni: It’s not good. It’s the type of water where Flipper would go to score heroin. Like a really bad area of the ocean. So I go, Look, I don’t know, don’t you have a stuntman? And they go, Well, we do, but he’s afraid. He’s standing there on the shore going, I’m a stuntman, not an idiot! So I said, Listen, I don’t want to do it. And they said, Don’t worry. We had the water tested. This is a big movie. We’re not screwing around with you. We have a testing company. Which they do, and I said, Well, just so I feel better, can I talk to them? And they said, Yeah, here’s the number. So I call and they said yes, they had the water tested and they found that it has, and I’m quoting here, it has an acceptable level of fecal bacteria.
Jeni: What is your idea of an acceptable level of fecal bacteria?
Jeni: Zero, nada, no lo crapo, that’s my limit. If I’m swimming in Malibu, and a guy is taking a dump off the cost of Argentina…way too close! There’s no acceptable level. But you want to do it, you want to help out, you want to be a trooper, you wanna be in the sequel to the movie, let’s be honest. You don’t want to be sitting there at United Artists going, My God, they gave my part to Carrot Top.
Jeni: So I go down there and I’m swimming out there and it’s just worse than I thought. I’m down there like take 90, the water is freezing, and the director, who is on this boat…
Harris: Of course the director is on the boat, he ain’t gonna wade into the water, he ain’t nuts.
Jeni: No, he’s literally on a boat. Like on a cell phone, All right cut! He goes, Rich, come here. And I come waddling over, What? He goes, All right. It’s lookin’ good, light’s good, you’re in the right spot, but I feel like we’re losing some of the fun of this. And I go, I’m having fun. (coughing) I’m in fecal creek. A school of syringes just went by. You should be having the fun I’m having. So, I don’t know about the movie business. Unless you’re a star, unless you’re like the star of the movie, it’s just a job. And even if you are the star of the movie, it’s just that it’s a lot of money. But the actual work of it I don’t think is that interesting. Especially when you have to promote the movie, that’s all a nightmare. And for Jim, it’s like ten times more than I did. But it was just horrendous, they put you in a hotel room at 8 o’clock in the morning. Literally for about 8 hours people just keep tromping in and asking you the same questions. When you’re done with that, then you’re on this show and that show, and then you have to do a European publicity tour. A lot of being a movie star is just really, really boring.
Harris: Do they ask you really stupid questions like, Richard, if you had a mask what would you turn in to?
Jeni: Sometimes they’ll ask you that.
Jeni: Not that I’m complaining. I’m not going to be like Michael Douglas — who made 15 million dollars on the movie Basic Instinct for having sex with Sharon Stone — and then go on the talk shows and be like Well, people don’t realize it’s very hard work. Compared to what? Compared to the guy behind the bulletproof glass at the Arco station at 3 in the morning? “Can I help you please?” “Yes, how would you like to get out of there and have sex with Sharon Stone for 15 million dollars?” “Oh, no I don’t want to work that hard, thank you very much. Would you like some car freshener?” “You don’t understand, I’m offering you 15 million.” “It’s not a question of money, it’s a quality of life issue. I’m a night person, I don’t want to work in the day.” “But you’re making minimum wage!” “Well, it’s a few more dollars, yes, but the time you get done with taxes, I’ll be better off.” “You’ll be on the cover of People!” “I have one copy left, would you like a copy?” Hard work, give me a break!
Harris: You were telling me earlier that’s it’s still hell on you to come home late after a gig and just have to sit there by yourself watching TV all night long.
Jeni: Yeah, there’s not a lot happening at night. Late night TV though is a very good thing to watch if you happen to be going bald.
Harris: What do you mean?
Jeni: They have a lot of cures for baldness, they just don’t talk about them on daytime TV.
Harris: Now why do you look at me like that when you’re talking about this?
Jeni: I wasn’t, Mister Paranoia! I was just trying to talk about, you should tune in, if you feel bad about it, tune in. There’s all these guys Men are you afraid one day your wife will be running her fingers through your hair and you won’t be home? Well I’m Ron Popeil I got this guy spraying hair out of a can. It’s amazing, it’s unbelievable! And you’re going, it’s paint! If I’m not mistaken, you’re painting your head! And he has the nerve to look in the camera and go, Your girlfriend will never know that you sprayed a ton o’ black crap all over your head! And I’m always going, Why buy it then? If your girlfriend is that much of a doorknob, that she doesn’t know that you have suddenly Dutch Boy- ed your skull black, save the cash! You could fool her with antlers if she’s that stupid! Your hair looks different, honey. [in Bullwinkle voice] It’s the same hair I’ve always had dear, I’ve just moussed it is all. Every channel they have people to help you with stuff. They have memory guy, have you seen the memory guy?
Harris: Oh yeah, Harry Lorraine.
Jeni: Harry Lorraine, the Memory guy. I can teach you how to have a better memory and a better life, how does that sound? Sounds like a bunch of crap! Let’s be honest, the only way to have a better life is to somehow have a worse memory and forget all the horrible crap that has happened to up till now. Why don’t they have a guy who will teach you a useful skill like, denial? Put him on! Hi, I’m an expert on total denial, millions have achieved happiness with my program called: That’s My Story and I’m Stickin’ to It. Screw over everyone you want without an ounce of guilt because in your mind it never happened in the first place. You’ll learn key denial phrases like: “I’m a work in progress.” or “The system is perfect, the people are not.” “I’m not a murderer, I’m O.J. Simpson.” That’s right, TOTAL DENIAL! Learn the art of circular reasoning. I’ve had an affair, I’m not a bad person, only a good person could, so therefore this is my husband’s fault!’ That’s right, TOTAL DENIAL! Charge it to your husband’s credit card, if he confronts you, deny you made the purchase. The other one is The denial tape will be there in four to six weeks, if it doesn’t show up, hey, I sent it! The other good thing about the late night TV is that they don’t have a lot of disgusting medical products on. Whenever I’ve been tuning in during the day it’s yeast infection this, Anusol that. I’m afraid to turn the channel and hear: Are you one of the 30 million men suffering from Exploding Scrotum Syndrome? How many times has your scrotum exploded causing your testicles to rocket through the office, possibly ruining that important sales presentation? Try new Scrote- Secure for 30 days, and if it doesn’t work bring your testicles to the pharmacy for a full refund. Hi, I’m the pharmacist, can I help you? Do you have the receipt? Did that hurt?”
Harris: Oh man, dogs in four counties just went running.
Jeni: Well, you know, what can I tell you.
Harris: Richard Jeni is at The Improv this weekend. You have to go see him, he’s an old favorite of ours. And believe me if it’s not a good show, you went to the wrong place.
Jeni: I like that, that’s my new slogan. If you’re not laughing, you’re in the wrong building.
Harris: If you don’t enjoy it, you’re in the wrong place, you’re in a dry cleaner or something. Always good to see you, Richard.
Jeni: You too, Paul.
Copyright 1996, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Joe Camarda