Charles Rocket Was Too Beautiful For This World

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Suicide is the only honorable way for a comedian to die. Thus Charles Rocket, the former Saturday Night Live star, weatherman, cultural icon in the little-but-great state of Rhode Island, and guest star in scores of films and TV shows, receives in death the respect that was denied him in life.

Of Rocket's tenure in the Ocean State, the Providence Phoenix writes, "He was a towering figure in the underground arts scene in the Providence of the 1970s. He heavily influenced Talking Heads, the Young Adults, and dozens of other bands. Those who were active then will tell you that Charles Rocket, in many ways, helped create the template for the underground/hipster/bohemian art scene here and elsewhere."

Rocket's national moment, however, came when he joined the cursed 1980-81 cast of Saturday Night Live, hosting "Weekend Update," running a series of "Rocket Report" films (none of which I can recall, though I remember thinking they were funny), repackaging Bill Murray's brand of calcified deadpan (a manner Tom Hanks, Steve Guttenberg, Michael Keaton, Judge Reinhold, and many others would ape during the Andropov era), and finally taking the Lenny Bruce path of doing stunt-advocacy for free speech and getting no laughs: Playing J.R. in a Dallas parody, Rocket blurted out "Who the fuck shot me?" or some variation thereof. That action put him out of his SNL misery, and though he's worked steadily, it appears to have been all downhill from there.

Rocket filmography and Wikipedia entry. Rocket in line to buy a book. Cursed-cast veteran Gilbert Gottfried tells The Onion what it was like to be in history's most hated group of Not Ready For Prime Time Players. Another member of the cursed cast has had a somewhat more fruitful legacy.

NEXT: Sell, but Don't Tell

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  1. I believe the SNL quote was “What do I care, I’m fuckin’ shot?”

  2. According to Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, it was “I’d like to know who the fuck did it.”

  3. He was great in Max Headroom. He also did some stuff on Night Flight. Damn.

  4. I always thought the SNL fuck incident happened when he was doing a Regan Impersonation.

    He was very cool and very underrated. After SNL all he seemed to land were proto-YUPPIE asshole parts, which he ruled at. If you needed an evil corporate raider, an evil network executive or evil college dean Charles Rocket was the man. It’s a damn shame. He was supposed to be the next Chevy Chase. Why couldn’t have been Chevy that slashed his own throat?

    And by the way. Slashed his own throat? WTF?

  5. According to the Wikipedia entry he was found in a field with his throat cut. I have never before heard of suicide in this manner. Does this sound fishy to anyone else or is this a common method?

  6. It requires a singular brand of despondence of slit one’s own throat. In a field, no less. Very New England gothic.

  7. Ditto to John. He cut his own throat? It takes a pretty tough guy to do that, doesn’t it?

    Ooops, Jeff said the same thing.

  8. It should be noted that Rocket’s entry at IMDB is larger than Brad Hall’s…

  9. Jesse — I saw the episode when it ran (pity me), and I remember the line as pretty much the official version: specifically “I just wish I knew who the fuck shot me.”

    Most of the rest — A quick Google of “suicide throat cut” will reveal a host of probably not work safe links on the subject (complete with photos!), which is apparently rare, but not unknown.

    I recall the probably apocryphal story of a case in Victorian or earlier England, where attempting suicide was a capital crime, in which someone who had attempted suicide by cutting their throat was sentenced to death by hanging. A spontaneous tracheotomy allegedly ensued.

  10. This just in from the 18th century — Wikipedia reports that the British East India Company’s Robert Clive did himself in this way.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_famous_suicides

  11. Might he have been drunk (or other) at the time? It’s probably easier to do such a thing when you’re not sober.

    Jeez, illegal suicide. Musta been a lot of intentional “accidents” back then.

  12. “only honourable way for a comedian to die”? Fuck that! What about making a pun so bad you die at the hands of an enraged horde?

  13. What about making a pun so bad you die at the hands of an enraged horde?

    I stand corrected.

  14. I think I remember him on “Touched By Father Dowling” a few times.

  15. They had Capt. Beefheart on in that SNL season (the Malcolm McDowell show)–it was the greatest fucking music act ever on SNL.

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