RIP Jan Hooks (1957-2014)

Sudden, sad news.

Jan Hooks, who starred alongside one of Saturday Night Live‘s best casts ever from 1986-1991, has died. Hooks was 57.

Her reps confirmed the news today. TMZ also reported that Hooks recently was battling with serious illness. More details are not yet available.

Born April 23, 1957, Hooks grew up in Decatur, Ga., just outside of Atlanta. One of her big TV breaks came on a lesser-known late-night show, Tush, that aired on the station not yet known in 1978-79 as TBS.

This is a young unknown Hooks singing a parody of Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman.”

And in a spoof on beauty pageants:

She then moved on to roles with HBO’s parody series Not Necessarily the News and The Groundlings, where she nabbed this part in fellow Groundling Paul Reubens in his big splash, 1985’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Her tour of The Alamo remains remarkable for anyone looking for this historical landmark’s basement. Roll the clip!

She landed her spot in the cast of SNL in 1986 along with Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey and others in the show’s grand overhaul and literal second coming of Lorne Michaels. Then she kept SNL grounded throughout the late 1980s with original characters such as The Sweeney Sisters (with Nora Dunn) and impersonations which included Bette Davis, Ann-Margret, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, Sinéad O’Connor, Jodie Foster, Tammy Faye Bakker, Kathie Lee Gifford,Kitty Dukakis, Diane Sawyer, and Hillary Clinton. If Hartman was “the glue” of this SNL cast, then Hooks was the invisible tape that kept everything connected, the magic tape that stole the scene.

So many times, Hooks and Hartman played off of each other with witty, sharp banter and devilish commitment to their characters.

In Church Chat, one of Carvey’s signature recurring bits as “The Church Lady,” Hooks shines as Tammy Faye Bakker:

As Nancy Reagan to Phil Hartman’s Barbara Bush:

Hooks as Tammy Wynette:

And here, with Nora Dunn, as the singing Sweeney Sisters:

Hooks left SNL in 1991 to replace Jean Smart for the final two seasons of Designing Women on CBS.

She rejoined Martin Short for two of his “Jiminy Glick” productions onscreen, earned an Emmy nomination for a turn on 3rd Rock from the Sun, voiced parts for The Simpsons and Futurama, and made what would be a rare later appearance in 2010 on 30 Rock, playing the mother of Jane Krakowski’s character.

Here she was back in her SNL days playing Kathie Lee Gifford to Dana Carvey’s Regis Philbin, as she sings to a monkey.

And another sketch, this one with guest host Dennis Quaid.

Perhaps one of the best, though…

If you have Hulu Plus, you also can rewatch her appearance with the other women of SNL in this NBC retrospective:

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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