Remembering New Hampshire Native and ‘Saturday Night Live’ Star Charles Rocket
I’m feeling fortunate to have written for a late-night comedy show at 30 Rockefeller Center, as that was my dream growing up on the Seacoast.
But I was nicely reminded that no matter how far I got, I wouldn’t be the first Winnacunnet High School grad to make it big at 30 Rock.
Long before New Hampshire’s own Seth Meyers began his eight-season run as the anchor for Weekend Update on “Saturday Night Live,” the segment was hosted by another Granite State Native.
Charles Claverie – or as he was known to most, Charles Rocket – delivered the fake news during SNL’s sixth season. Much like now, the show was going through a retooling period, having lost its entire original cast at the end of Season 5.
Rocket was one of the more enticing prospects, hence his quick ascension to the show’s most prominent post.
But as was the case for many on “Saturday Night Live” at this time, Rocket’s tenure on the show became embroiled with chaos, and ultimately cost him his job.
In 1981, star of the hit primetime drama “Dallas” Charlene Tilton hosted an episode featuring a parody of the show’s famous “Who shot J.R.?” storyline. In this case, it was Rocket who took the bullet.
During the show’s end credits, Rocket was asked how he felt about being shot and, in character, replied, “I’d like to know who f---ing did it.” Within comedy circles, debate has raged on as to whether Rocket was instructed to deliver the line, or improvised it on the spot.
Personally, I’ve heard more of the former than the latter.
Regardless, negative press and broadcast violation standards led to Rocket being dismissed before his rookie season had ended.
It's quite sad that Rocket is most closely associated with this incident, as he went on to have a prolific career in film and television. On the big screen, he appeared in films such as “Dances with Wolves,” “Hocus Pocus,” and “Dumb and Dumber.” On the small screen he was even more successful, making appearances on “Miami Vice,” “Moonlighting,” “Murder She Wrote,” “Quantum Leap,” “Wings," and “Third Rock From the Sun.”
By all accounts, Rocket was a friend to many and the “life of the party,” according to a 2005 Seacoast Online article. However, things weren’t as pleasant as they appeared, as Charles Rocket, still known to friends as Charlie Claverie, would take his own life that same year.
It was bittersweet seeing the name “Charles Rocket” scroll by during the show’s “In Memoriam” segment during its 40th anniversary. It’s easy to wonder “what if”, but I choose to be proud to have grown up in the same community as one of the few to have anchored Weekend Update.
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