Who was Jan Hooks?
Jan Hooks was an American actor and comedian. She was active in the entertainment industry from 1980 to 2013. Jan has acted in several films, but is mostly known for her TV appearances. In her initial days as a TV artist, Jan had made numerous appearances in various series. She is still remembered for her remarkable journey on 'Saturday Night Live' and her outstanding performance in the series 'Designing Women.' Jan was seen in a recurring role in the series '3rd Rock from the Sun,' for which she earned an ‘Emmy Award’ nomination. Some of her noteworthy TV projects were 'That Was the Week That Was,' 'The Joe Piscopo Special,' and 'Prime Times.' Jan is also known as a voice artist and has lent her voice to characters such as ‘Lil’ in 'Frosty Returns' (1995) and ‘Anglelyne’ in 'Futurama.' Some of her notable big-screen ventures were 'Batman Returns,' 'Funland,' 'Coneheads,' and 'Jiminy Glick in Lalawood.' Jan succumbed to throat cancer in 2014. She had never married but was in a relationship with her 'Saturday Night Live' co-star Kevin Nealon.
Childhood & Early Life
Jan was born Janet Vivian Hooks, on April 23, 1957. She was raised in Decatur, Georgia. Her father worked at 'Sears,' an American chain of department stores. Jan and her family moved to Fort Myers, Florida, in 1974, when her father had a job transfer. Jan grew up with her brother.
Jan attended ‘Canby Lane Elementary School’ and ‘Towers High School,’ both in Decatur. She later attended ‘Cypress Lake High School’ in Florida. Jan would often take part in high-school plays. She graduated high school in 1975.
Jan studied theater at 'Edison State College' but dropped out before graduating and began acting full-time.
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Jan began her career as a theater artist with 'The Groundlings,' a comedy troupe. She also was part of an Atlanta nightclub act titled 'The Wits End Players.' Jan made her TV debut with the sketch-comedy show 'Tush' in 1980. For the next few years, she played a number of characters on the show 'The 1/2 Hour Comedy Hour' and the TV special 'Prime Times.'
Jan gained prominence in 1983, when she appeared in the 'HBO' comedy series 'Not Necessarily the News.' She appeared in 24 episodes of the series, till 1984. In 1985, she was considered for the popular late-night live TV variety show 'Saturday Night Live' but was ultimately dropped. Nonetheless, Jan was finally cast in 1986, as the show’s previous season had suffered low ratings and it was on the verge of being canceled. On 'Saturday Night Live', Jan had mimicked several celebrities, such as Bette Davis, Ann-Margret, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, Sinéad O'Connor, Jodie Foster, Drew Barrymore, Tammy Faye Bakker, Kathie Lee Gifford, Kitty Dukakis, Diane Sawyer, and Hillary Clinton. In 1991, Jan quit the show after featuring in 102 episodes and joined the cast of the 'CBS' sitcom 'Designing Women.' She portrayed the character ‘Carlene Dobber’ in the last two seasons of the show.
From 1994, Jan rejoined 'Saturday Night Live,’ occasionally appearing as Hillary Clinton. Her next recurring role was that of ‘Vicki Dubcek’ in the 'NBC' sitcom '3rd Rock from the Sun' in 1996. She earned an 'Emmy Award' nomination for the role. Jan voiced the character ‘Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon’ in six episodes of 'The Simpsons,' from 1997 to 2002. Following this, she guest-starred in a few TV series, such as 'Providence' (2001), 'Game Over' (2004), and two episodes of '30 Rock' (2010). In 2013, Jan voiced the character ‘Mrs. Kellogg’ in the 'Fox’ animated sitcom 'The Cleveland Show.' This was the last project of her entertainment career.
Jan made her movie debut in 1985, with the adventure comedy film 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure.' She had a guest appearance, as ‘Jen,’ in the 1992 superhero movie 'Batman Returns.' The following year, Jan appeared in two films, namely, the comedy 'Coneheads' and the romantic drama 'A Dangerous Woman.' Some of her other notable roles were that of ‘Stephanie Needham’ in 'Wildcats' (1986), ‘Shelly Willingham’ in 'Funland' (1987), ‘Miss Leavey’ in 'Simon Birch' (1998), and ‘Dixie Glick’ in 'Jiminy Glick in Lalawood' (2004).
Family, Personal Life & Death
Jan had been in an intimate relationship with her 'Saturday Night Live’ co-star Kevin Nealon, whom she had met during an audition. After years of being friends and calling each other by nicknames (“Kevers” and “Janners”), the two finally admitted their love for each other. Jan had lost her mother just before joining 'Saturday Night Live’ and had found solace in Kevin’s company. Their relationship grew while they hosted the show together. Unfortunately, they broke up after dating for years. However, they remained friends until Jan’s death.
Jan owned an apartment in New York and a farmhouse in the upstate region. She lived alternatively at both places until she moved to the farmhouse for good. Soon after her move, a cancerous node was detected in her throat. The lump remained unresponsive to chemotherapy, and she was advised by doctors to undergo a laryngectomy. However, Jan never underwent the treatment. Instead, she continued smoking and drinking until her cancer spread beyond limits.
On October 9, 2014, Jan died at her home in Woodstock, New York. She died of choking, as the lump in her throat grew large enough to block her windpipe. She was buried in 'Northview Cemetery' in Cedartown, Georgia.
On October 11, 2014, 'Saturday Night Live’ paid a tribute to Jan in its 40th season. Hosted by Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, the episode featured a skit titled 'Love Is a Dream' that Jan had filmed in 1988. Additionally, 'NBC' aired an episode (originally aired in 1990), featuring two of Jan’s most popular comedy sketches. One of them was 'Brenda, the Waitress' and the other featured Jan as popular yesteryear actor Greta Garbo.
October 12, 2014, ‘The Simpsons' paid homage tribute to Jan by honoring her long-time voiced character ‘Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon’ during the credits of an episode from the show.