SNL alumni committed suicide

  • 8comments

The Connecticut state medical examiner ruled that the death of Charles Rocket, whose body was found October 7 in a field near his home, was a suicide. According to the medical report, the comedian cut his own throat. State police concluded that there is no criminal aspect to the case. Rocket was 56.

Rocket, whose real name was Charles Claverie, began his performing career in the Rhode Island theater scene and fronted a band, the Fabulous Motels. Later, he became a news anchor on a local television station. In 1980, he became a cast member of NBC's venerable sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live.

At the end of the 1979-1980 season, the entire cast, which included Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, and Bill Murray, announced they would not return. Dealing the show an even bigger blow was the departure of creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels.

When former Saturday Night Live talent scout Jean Doumanian took over as the executive producer for the 1980-1981 season, she hired an entirely new cast and the show was renamed Saturday Night Live '80. Singled out for the "Weekend Update" anchor spot and as the all-around star of the new ensemble was Charles Rocket, who was billed as a cross between Chevy Chase and Bill Murray. However, before the season was even finished, Rocket sealed his fate on the show by uttering the "F" word during a Dallas parody sketch. The foul language went out live over the airwaves, and soon after the incident both he and Doumanian were fired.

Rocket never attained the stardom of other Saturday Night Live veterans, but he was able to carve out a respectable career nonetheless. He went on to appear as an evil network president in the sci-fi series Max Headroom. He also had roles in the films Earth Girls Are Easy, Dances with Wolves, Robert Altman's Short Cuts, and he had recurring roles in the television series Moonlighting and Touched by an Angel. More recently, he had a regular role in the short-lived "John Goodman is gay" sitcom Normal, Ohio.

Rocket is not the first SNL performer to meet a grisly or untimely demise. In 1982, breakout star John Belushi overdosed on cocaine and heroin at Hollywood's Chateau Marmonte hotel. He was 33. Similarly, Chris Farley died of a cocaine and heroin overdose at the age of 33 in 1997. In 1998, Phil Hartman, age 50, was murdered by his wife, who then killed herself. Gilda Radner died at age 42 of ovarian cancer in 1989. One-season cast member Danitra Vance died of breast cancer at age 40 in 1994. Also in 1994, founding SNL writer Michael O'Donoghue died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 54.

Like TV.com on Facebook