Janet Vivian “Jan” Hooks (April 23, 1957 – October 9, 2014) was an American actress and comedian best known for her work on Saturday Night Live, where she was a repertory player from 1986-91, and continued making cameo appearances until 1994. Her subsequent work included a regular role on the final two seasons of Designing Women, a recurring role on 3rd Rock from the Sun and a number of other roles in film and television.
Hooks was born and raised in Decatur, Georgia, where she attended Canby Lane Elementary School and Towers High School. In 1974 her family relocated to Fort Myers, Florida. She attended the University of West Florida in Pensacola, but did not earn her degree because she fell in love with acting.
She began her career as a member of the Los Angeles-based comedy troupe The Groundlings and in an Atlanta nightclub act called The Wits End Players.
From 1978-79, she appeared in Tush on Ted Turner’s television station WTCG, which eventually became TBS. She gained notice in the early 1980s on the HBO comedy series Not Necessarily the News. Hooks made guest appearances on Comedy Break with Mack and Jamie in the mid-1980s.
Hooks was considered for SNL in 1985, but was passed over by the show’s producers in favor of Joan Cusack. After the show’s 1985–1986 season was deemed a ratings disaster and put on the chopping block for cancellation, returning producer Lorne Michaels offered Hooks a contract in 1986, along with new recruits Dana Carvey and Phil Hartman, among others. They helped put the show back in the national spotlight. Her characters included Candy Sweeney of “The Sweeney Sisters”. She performed notable impressions of 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 Rodham Clinton.
Tiring of the stress of performing on a live show, Hooks left SNL in 1991 after being asked by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason to replace Jean Smart on the CBS sitcom Designing Women. Hooks played the role of Carlene Dobber for the final two seasons of the show. She appeared in several movies, starred as Dixie Glick in the series Primetime Glick, and the movie Jiminy Glick in Lalawood. She had a recurring role as the trashy Vicki Dubcek on 3rd Rock from the Sun, which earned Hooks an Emmy Award nomination. Hooks guest-starred on two Matt Groening-produced cartoons for the FOX Network: six episodes of The Simpsons between 1997 and 2002, as Apu’s wife Manjula (although Hooks was later replaced by Tress MacNeille), and in Futurama (in the episode “Bendless Love” as the voice of a female robot named Angleyne). She appeared in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure as a know-it-all tour guide at the Alamo and made a cameo appearance in the 1992 movie Batman Returns as Jen, the Penguin’s image consultant during his campaign to become Mayor of Gotham City. She made two appearances on 30 Rock in 2010 playing Jenna Maroney’s mother, Verna. She guest starred in a 2013 episode of The Cleveland Show called “Mr. and Mrs. Brown” in her last role.
Hooks died on October 9, 2014 in her home in Woodstock, New York at the age of 57. She had been battling cancer before her death and was interred in Cedartown, Georgia.
Saturday Night Live aired a tribute for Hooks in the third episode of its 40th season on October 11, 2014, reprising a skit she had filmed in 1988 with Phil Hartman. The clip, “Love is a Dream”, was the same one that had concluded the show’s special tribute episode to Hartman after his death in 1998. Guest host Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig introduced the tribute. Earlier in the evening, the show’s prime time SNL Vintage spinoff aired a 1990 episode, hosted by Alec Baldwin, which featured two of Hooks’ most famous comedic sketches: “Brenda the Waitress”, and one in which she played Greta Garbo.
The Simpsons episode “Super Franchise Me” memorialized her on October 12, 2014, with her longtime character Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon honored during the credits.
- April, 23, 1957
- Decatur, Georgia
- October, 09, 2014
- New York, New York
Cause of Death
- Northview Cemetery