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The tragic decline of Ray Combs

According to the surprisingly salacious E! True Hollywood Story episode about Family Feud, the task of firing Ray Combs fell upon Jonathan Goodson, the new chairman of Goodson Television Productions following the death of his father, Mark Goodson. Combs was told his contract would not be renewed before he was done shooting episodes for the season. Like a pro, he finished them out. Not so professional, however, was how Combs handled himself on air during the taping of his last episode. After the contestant in the final round got straight zeroes with his lackluster responses, Combs, the former stand-up comedian, wryly and darkly quipped to the contestant, “You know, I’ve done this show for six years and this could be the first time that I ever had a person who actually got no points, and I think it’s a damn fine way to go out. Thought I was a loser until you walked up here, and you made me feel like a man.” The contestant ultimately didn’t get any points, Combs waved goodbye to viewers and instead of hanging around chatting with players as the credits rolled, he walked right off the set and out of the studio.

Combs’ termination set off a rapid, two-year downward spiral. He tried to host a new game show called The Love Psychic, but it flopped. He closed two Cincinnati comedy clubs he owned due to financial problems, and he and his wife filed for divorce. In June 1996, he reportedly told a friend that he was so mad at his wife that he was going to “hurt her and destroy the place,” meaning their house. The friend called police, who found Combs at his house, which had been torn apart. He was also bleeding profusely from his head, which he’d been repeatedly banging against the wall. He was admitted to Glendale Adventist Medical Center on a 72-hour mental evaluation hold. A day later, staff discovered Combs in his room, having taken his own life at the young age of 40.

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