By Jennifer Armstrong
June 30, 2009 at 07:18 PM EDT

No one knows better than EW that this week that, as Jon Stewart said on last night’s Daily Show, anyone who ever meant anything to anyone is dead. Or at least it seems that way. The inevitable effect in the Internet age? Crazy death hoaxes! The most recent: Rick Astley, who, for the record, is alive and well.

Are people always trying to start these rumors, but simply succeeding thanks to this celebrity-death-filled week? I don’t know, but that makes sense: Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays…like any truly random combination of celebrities, their juxtaposition makes it feel all that more surreal. The combination of true legend and pitchman, of beauty icon and early-TV fixture, of tragic tabloid targets (Fawcett and Jackson) and onetime punchlines (Jackson and Mays)…it all seems like a crazy celebrity Mad Lib and makes it feel like hey, if those four people can go in the same week, anything’s possible. If you’d showed us, say, this week’s forthcoming issue of EW two weeks ago, we’d have thought it was some sick joke. So naturally, this has all made fertile ground for, well, sick jokes.

Presumably born of people’s dark musings as they watch endless hours of Fawcett/Jackson coverage — can you imagine if George Clooney died now, too? could Natalie Portman be dead? — and the rumor power of the blogosphere, the death hoaxes have been coming fast and furious this week. The first, from what I can tell, was Jeff Goldblum — whose rumored death hit while news outlets were only just reporting Jackson’s shocking demise. That choice of celebrity seemed almost eerily well-planned: He’s just the right level of fame (Madonna or Britney Spears at that moment would’ve seemed too big to be true). And because we don’t follow his every move so religiously in the gossip pages, anything happening to him without much warning seemed plausible, from a movie-set accident to an unforeseen illness. For the record, we are thrilled and relieved and grateful to report that all of these talented, rumored-dead folks are still with us.

What do you think, PopWatchers? Why so many rumored deaths to go along with our devastatingly real ones this week? Have any of the rumors upset you more than the others? Will we ever figure out a way to control the Internet’s growing rumor mill?

addCredit(“Michael Putland/Retna”)