Ray Combs (April 3, 1956 – June 2, 1996)
He was born Raymond Neil Combs Jr. in Hamilton, Ohio. He graduated high school in 1974 as an actor, senior
class president and Boys State delegate. Turning down a nomination to the United States’ Military
Academy, Combs went to Arizona for two years as a Mormon missionary.
He began performing comedy in Cincinnati where he had the audience sing along to sitcom theme songs. In 1982, he moved his family to Los Angeles to get serious about his comedy career. He began doing audience warm-ups for NBC sitcoms. Johnny Carson heard the audiences laughing in 1986 and invited him to The Tonight Show. The following year, he was a celebrity panelist for John Davidson’s version of Hollywood Squares. He appeared in the film Overboard and in 1985 appeared on The Facts of Life and The Golden Girls.
In 1988, he was given a 7-year contract to host Family Feud. The show premiered July 4, 1988 and Combs toured extensively around the U.S. to promote the show. In June 1992, the show was expanded to a hour long. But by 1993, ratings slipped and on September 10, Family Feud was cancelled. Combs’ final episode was taped May 27, 1994. After the filming wrapped, Combs left without saying goodbye to anyone.
In July 1994 Combs injured his spinal disc in an automobile accident that left him in permanent pain. He then experienced financial difficulties when two of his comedy clubs had to close. In September 1994, he and his wife of 18 years separated. (They later reconciled but then filed for divorce.) Attempts to revive his TV career weren’t successful either.
On June 1, 1996, police were called to his Glendale, California home. Combs had destroyed the inside of his home and was banging his head against the walls. His ex-wife arrived and informed police that Combs had been suicidal and had spent time the previous week in the hospital after attempting suicide. He was involuntarily taken to a Glendale hospital under a 72-hour mental observation hold. The next morning, Combs made a noose from his hospital sheets and hanged himself in a closet. Combs was survived by his parents, wife Debbie and six children.