Actress and comedian Jan Hooks, who was a Saturday Night Live cast member from 1986 to 1991 and who appeared on Designing Women, died on the morning of October 9th, according to TMZ. The cause of death has not yet been revealed. She was 57.
Hooks is best remembered for her impressions of Nancy Reagan, Ivana Trump, Sinéad O’Connor and the heavily mascaraed wife of disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker, Tammy Faye Bakker. She was also known for her own character, Candy Sweeney – one half of the lounge singers the Sweeney Sisters. “That show changed my life,” Hooks said in the book Live From New York, an oral history of the show. She would continue to make appearances on Saturday Night Live through 1994.
“In my audition, when Lorne [Michaels] said I think you’re weak in characters, I said, ‘Oh, well, you know who’s the greatest female character in America? Jan Hooks,'” SNL alumna Victoria Jackson recalled in the same book. “She would just go into these people and I thought she was, like, great…. I thought she was, like, a genius, so I told Lorne.”
After SNL, the actress joined the cast of the sitcom Designing Women, replacing Jean Smart, and portrayed divorcée Carlene Dobber for the series’ final two seasons. Hooks also had roles in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Wildcats (1986), Batman Returns (1992), Coneheads (1993) and Simon Birch (1998). On TV, the actress appeared on the series Not Necessarily the News, The Martin Short Show, 3rd Rock From the Sun, The Simpsons and 30 Rock.
Hooks was born in Decatur, Georgia and raised in the Peach State until high school when her father, who worked for a department store chain, relocated to Naples, Florida. She attended the University of West Florida in Pensacola, according to The Associated Press, but dropped out when she got an acting gig playing a Native American. After joining an Atlanta-based comedy ensemble, the New Wits End Players, she helped develop sketches for nightclubs and got a gig on Tush, an hour-long comedy-variety show for Turner Broadcasting. She moved to Los Angeles in the early Eighties, but relocated to New York when she got the SNL gig.
After Hooks’ death was announced, comedian and actor Patton Oswalt paid tribute to the actress in a tweet, referencing Hooks’ role as the Alamo guide in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. “Not now, but sometime this weekend I’ll think of Jan Hooks saying ‘adobe’ and I’ll get tear-eyed,” he wrote. “I know it.”