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Jan Hooks, an actress and comedian known for Saturday Night Live, 3rd Rock From The Sun, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and 30 Rock, has died at the age of 57. Hooks began her career as a member of Los Angeles’ famous Groundlings troupe and was offered a series of small television roles in the early 1980s before landing her big breaks in Big Adventure and then as a player on SNL in 1986.
The news broke on this afternoon, with TMZ reporting that Hooks died in New York City on Thursday morning. The outlet is noting that Hooks had been battling an unknown serious illness from some time, but while representatives later confirmed her death, we do not currently have any information regarding the cause.
During her time on SNL, Hooks helped to reboot the series after ratings were down. She was often known for her celebrity impressions, including Kathie Lee Gifford, Hilary Clinton, Sinead O’Connor and Nancy Reagan. However, she may be mostly known for her “Sweeney Sisters” sketch, which followed herself and other SNL castmember Nora Dunn as they sang in seedy motels.
Hooks began starring in the CBS sitcom Designing Women in 1991, although she would pop up in Saturday Night Live until 1994. Soon after, 3rd Rock From The Sun came calling. She had a large, 16-episode role in 3rd Rock From The Sun, mostly playing opposite French Stuart’s character, Harry, as his on-again, off-again girlfriend. She received an Emmy nomination for the role. She was also known for playing Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon on several episodes of Fox’s long-running animated series, The Simpsons. More recently, TV Blend staff enjoyed her small role on 30 Rock, naming her one of the top 20 characters to ever recur on the series (she played Jenna’s truly horrible mother in the comedy). It’s too bad she won’t be around to give another great comedy role a shot.
Many comedians who appear on Saturday Night Live will later go on to prolific film or television careers. For Hooks, Saturday Night Live was the place where the actress found the most comedic success. She was often paired opposite Phil Hartman, and went toe to toe with a slew of famous comedians during a period when Saturday Night Live was trying to re-find its footing. She would later tell Tom Shales & James Andrew Miller in Live From New York that the show “obviously” changed her life. She stood out, and although she didn’t have the big headliner careers some of her peers and co-workers had, her particular skill set still brought laughter to many over the years.