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October 13, 2015

Why isn't Jan Hooks famous?

by Eliot Glazer, posted May 9th 2009 12:50PM
Radner. Louis-Dreyfus. Poehler. Fey. Shannon.

jan hooks snlSuffice it to say, the number of women who became famous on Saturday Night Live before graduating to solo success is few and far between. Sure, Gilda Radner can be considered a pioneer in the art of sketch comedy. And Julia Louis-Dreyfus undoubtedly honed her comedic skills before becoming a sitcom icon on Seinfeld. And, yes, Tina Fey can easily be considered a heroine to comedy nerds everywhere who have witnessed her climb from Weekend Update anchor to Mean Girls scribe to single-handedly decimating the vice presidential chances of one certain gun-wieldin', six-pack-totin' Alaskan governor.

But, sadly, the number of men who left Studio 8 for the superstardom of Planet Hollywood (not the theme restaurant) easily outnumbers the ladies. For every Amy Poehler, there's a Will Ferrell. And a Bill Murray. And a Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler (although, to be fair, there's also a David Gary Kroeger, A. Whitney Brown, and Charles Rocket for every Melanie Hutsell, too). (And for the record, no, you shouldn't recognize those names.)

But maybe - just maybe - we aren't thinking hard enough when trying to come up with the names of SNL's most talented women. Having already professed my adoration for Molly Shannon, I feel it's only right to bring light to one of the landmark sketch comedy show's least-appreciated, underrated starlets: Jan Hooks.

A five-season cast member (from 1986 to 1991), Hooks never much became a household name with viewers. The most recognizable recurring character she brought to the show was big-haired lounge lizard Candy Sweeney, one half of The Sweeney Sisters (with Nora Dunn). And while the bit was funny, Hooks, herself, was always much funnier. Her wide-eyed Kathie Lee Gifford was impeccably obnoxious, but equally matched Dana Carvey's cartoonish evisceration of an infuriated Regis Philbin.

But it was in both colorful character acts and smaller, marginal roles that Hooks excelled. Yet she never quite seemed to acquire the amount of attention garnered by the dudes at the office, like Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, and David Spade. But she deserved it.

After SNL, Hooks showed up on sitcoms Designing Women and 3rd Rock From The Sun, neither of which really allowed her to thrive like she did in sketch comedy, from character to character, impression to interpretation. In fact, there are very few videos online featuring her, but even in the ones below, it's hard to deny that Hooks always appeared at the top of her game.

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Black Orange

Yeah, I've been watching her on 3rd Rock and I'm always left thinking why didn't they have her on the show more?

Looking at her IMDb it's pretty much a boneyard. There's not even a headshot of her up and that disappoints me. I actually went to put one up for her page and it turns out you have to signup for IMDbPro before you can do that which I'm seriously considering.

She's a beautiful and talented woman and it pisses me off she went under the radar. It's time's like these I wish I were a writer, director, producer anything to get great people like this involved in more projects. If anyone took the time to read this article I'd like to think it's only because they love Jan Hooks.

Good work on inspiring thoughtful people (to Jan Hooks and the author of this article), what we get in the mainstream these days is a joke.

September 23 2011 at 4:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I know you wrote this article last year, but we just saw Jan Hooks do a guest appearance on 30 Rock, and she was hilarious as usual. Thanks for writing this, and for posting the videos. THey're all great ones we had never seen. Well, we did see the People's Court one before, but it's a classic, so we didn't mind seeing it again. Btw, has it really been more than 20 years since she was on SNL? no way! I don't think I even had a tv set from 1986- 1991. Did they do reruns of her years for a while?
Oh, and yes, you should have included Jane Curtin in the list of those who did make it. We'd include these others who should be famous: Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, and Cheri O'Teri.

February 04 2010 at 10:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Not remember Charles Rocket? Really? I still remember him from his days on a comedy/news show on HBO-- I was just a kid then, and the name eludes me now. (That was the first time that I really took notice, and that was a long ways back). Not to mention his many appearances on television. One of my faves is still 'Adam' (the other) Angel of Death on 'Touched by an Angel'! There were times when I'd tune into see a TV show, or a movie, just because I saw his name in the credits. I definitely think his name is worth remembering... And it also saddens me to think of how under appreciated he was, too.

January 04 2010 at 3:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jan Hooks suffers from extreme stage fright...which makes her even more amazing...but also explains why we don't see much of her anymore.

June 09 2009 at 6:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Always thought Jan Hooks stood out from the pack, and it's great to see her get some recognition here. For some reason, though the Sweeney Sisters grated on me and was my least favorite of her bits.

And yes, let's strike A Whitney Brown from the list of people whose names are supposed to evoke mediocrity. His only sin perhaps was being too smart for the gig.

May 11 2009 at 11:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

After she went to Designing Women, I can't recall seeing her anymore. That may have been her downfall, attempting to fill Jean Smart's shoes.

May 11 2009 at 8:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

jan hooks was one of the best. as good as molly, poehler, ect.

May 10 2009 at 7:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't see why you think people shouldn't remember some of those names. A. Whitney Brown did standup on the Tonight Show many times. Charles Rocket was Dave's brother on Moonlighting, and didn't he drop the "f-bomb" on SNL? I remember seeing Jan Hooks even before Saturday Night Live on the Bill Tush Show on TBS.

May 10 2009 at 3:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think the title of this post should read "Why isn't Jan Hooks MORE famous?" I haven't seen her around much lately, but I think she's still very well known. I would be a little starstruck if I saw her on the street and I'm in my mid-twenties.

May 10 2009 at 8:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I remember her old-school when she had this great show on TBS before it was national cable. The centerpiece was her rle as a televangelist. It had a regular cast. If anyone had copies of this and could get them on air, my God, she'd be over the top.

May 10 2009 at 3:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mike's comment
Charlie Conner

the show you are talking about is "Tush", starring Bill Tush. That's how I first saw her too...I can't remember much about the show, but the cast also featured the creators of 3rd Rock, Bonnie & Terry Turner...

May 10 2009 at 11:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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