Ray Combs

From Academic Kids

Raymond Neil Combs, Jr. (April 3, 1956June 3, 1996) was an American television game show host and stand-up comedian.

Born in Hamilton, Ohio, Combs ascended into the world of comedy after moving to Los Angeles in the mid-1980s and doing audience warmups for sitcoms. Johnny Carson noticed this and invited him to perform on The Tonight Show in 1986; the audience gave him a standing ovation his first time on stage, the first time in the show's history a comedian was given such an honor on his or her first appearance.

Combs was best known for hosting the game show Family Feud. In 1988 veteran game show producer Mark Goodson selected Combs to host a new version of Feud, which was to air concurrently on CBS and in syndication. CBS heavily promoted Combs and the new Feud in the summer of 1988, with Combs making guest appearances on two other CBS game shows (Card Sharks and The Price is Right) to promote the show.

Audiences initially accepted Combs' performance on Family Feud despite the inevitable comparisons to longtime host Richard Dawson. By 1993, however, the show's ratings were declining. CBS canceled the daytime version that year, and the syndicated version was also in danger of cancellation. Jonathan Goodson, who became chairman of Mark Goodson Productions after his father's death a year earlier, then made the decision to replace Combs with the man he replaced, Richard Dawson. A very unhappy Combs walked out of the CBS studios before the end of his last episode in 1994, when the winning family got zero points in Fast Money.

Combs' dismissal from Feud was one of many events that ultimately led to his suicide by hanging in 1996. An automobile accident in 1994 nearly paralyzed him, while Combs went through financial problems after a comedy club he owned in Cincinnati, Ohio, went out of business. He had also separated from his longtime wife, Debbie, with whom he had six children. Several attempts to make it back into television—most notably as the host of the cable TV game show Family Challenge in 1995—all failed. Combs checked into the psychiatric ward of a Glendale, California, hospital, and hung himself in the closet with bedsheets on June 3, 1996—his wife's 40th birthday. Combs was himself only 40 years old. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

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