SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, once the nation’s stronghold of irreverent and offensive humor that protested the utter uselessness of what passed for TV entertainment, and now a textbook example of how to kiss the ass that you used to kick. Since it debuted in 1975 several of its alumni have gone on to the metaphysical after-party, and one of the more obscure joined the Choir Invisible just the other day, namely Charles Rocket, the victim of an apparent suicide in Connecticut. Hey, I grew up in Connecticut, so I can relate.
You are now undoubtedly saying, “Who the motherfuck was Charles Rocket?” Well, little buckaroos let Uncle Bunche fill you in.
Charles Rocket was one of the mostly horrendous cast who replaced the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players in 1980, a cast that gave the world a teenage Eddie Murphy — who was relegated mostly to the sideline by idiot producer Jean Doumanian, who felt that he wasn’t funny (translation: he was black) — and, with the exceptions of Joe Piscopo and Gilbert Gotfried, the rest of that sorry cast vanished into well-deserved obscurity. Denny Dillon, anyone?
I discovered SNL during the tail end of its second season and was hooked by the dirty humor, sheer tastelessness and great live bands that I had never heard of — it was there that I discovered Devo, the Talking Heads, Elvis Costello and others — and once the original cast departed to mostly bigger and better things I resolved to give their successors a fair chance. As a result of that fair chance for the most part being soundly betrayed I have only periodically checked in on the show since it has devolved into the kind of safe, sanitized horseshit that I hated before the original SNL and still despise to this day.
Charles Rocket as a performer was just as bland and talentless as most of his fellow cast members, and despite taking over for Bill Murray on the “Weekend Update” segment with his feeble “Rocket Report,” he had not one character or sketch to his credit that anyone remembers...except for the following tale:
On February 21, 1981, the nation was gripped by DALLAS fever as viewers wracked their brains in an attempt to answer the burning question “Who shot J.R.?” and SNL was hosted by DALLAS regular Charlene Tilton. During one of the many weak sketches that ensued, Charles Rocket was unexpectedly shot by an unknown assailant, setting up the rest of the show for endless — and bad — jokes revolving around “Who Shot C.R.?”
My fifteen-year-old ass was underwhelmed by all of this, and when the cast finally assembled onstage for the customary goodnights, Rocket was brought out in a wheelchair and Charlene Tilton expressed her happiness at Rocket having survived the attack. At that point Rocket turned to the camera, on live television, and said “I just wanna know who the fuck did it,” followed by a smarmy smirk. That line was clearly NOT part of the script, since the rest of the cast looked as surprised as the rest of us, complete with Charlene Tilton looking so shocked that she could have fired her tampon into the audience.
A week after that sophomoric attempt at being a “bad boy,” Rocket appeared on the show during the news segment and apologized for his gaffe, after which he went into a story about a then-recent hockey game in which somebody got hit in the face with the puck. At that point Rocket turned to the camera and sarcastically uttered the phrase “Did somebody say ‘puck?’” He was fired not long afterward, and the last thing I remember seeing him in was a recurring role during the short-lived FOX television series FLYING BLIND, with Tea Leoni.
And that’s all you really will ever need to know about the late Charles Rocket.