WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) – Richard Jeni, a Brooklyn-born standup comedian who played to sold-out crowds and was a regular on the “Tonight Show,” died from a gunshot wound in an apparent suicide, police said Sunday.

Police found Jeni alive but gravely injured in a home here after responding to a call Saturday morning from Jeni’s girlfriend reporting the comic had shot himself, Los Angeles Police Officer Norma Eisenman said.

He died after being rushed to a nearby hospital.

Eisenman said she could not confirm that Jeni had killed himself and said the investigation was ongoing. She said the female caller told police: “My boyfriend shot himself in the face.” Jeni, who has appeared on the “The Tonight Show” and acted in the Jim Carrey movie “The Mask,” was 45.

years old.

He regularly toured the country with a standup act and starred in several HBO comedy specials, most recently “A Big Steaming Pile of Me” during the cable network’s 2005-06 season.

Another HBO special, “Platypus Man,” won a Cable ACE award for best standup comedy special. It formed the basis for his UPN sitcom of the same name, which ran for one season.

Jeni wrote comic material for the 2005 Academy Awards, hosted by his friend Chris Rock.

The comedian guest-starred in the TV shows “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Married: With Children,” and updated versions of the game shows “Hollywood Squares” and “Match Game.”

Jeni became a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show” during Johnny Carson’s reign and continued to appear after Jay Leno took over as host.

The comic first received national attention in 1990 with the Showtime special “Richard Jeni: Boy From New York City.” Two years later, his “Crazy From the Heat” special attracted the highest ratings in Showtime’s history.

Jeni’s movie credits included “The Mask,” playing Jim Carrey’s best friend, “The Aristocrats,” “National Lampoon’s Dad’s Week Off,” and “An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn.”

AP-ES-03-11-07 1518EDT

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