Jan Hooks was born in Decatur, Georgia and lived in Atlanta until her family moved to Florida during her high school years. While in high school, her attention turned from cheerleading to school theater productions. She attended the University of West Florida and became active in regional and summer theater productions.
Jan returned to Atlanta to work in dinner theater and became a member of the comedy ensamble group The New Wits End Players. She also appeared on WTBS and won the Georgia-area Emmy Award for her performance in Tush.
Best known for her five season stint as a Saturday Night Live Player from October of 1986 through May of 1991, Jan portrayed many characters during her run on the show including appearances as Tammy Faye Bakker, Eleanor Clift in The McLaughlin Group, Hilary Clinton, Nadia Comaneci, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, Betty Ford, Kathie Lee Gifford, Nancy Glass in Attitudes, Jessica Hahn, Sally Kellerman, Doe Kelly in Attitudes, Marla Maples, Sinead O'Conner, Sally Jessy Raphael, Nancy Reagan, Diane Sawyer, Nancy Simmons in Wayne's World, Candy in the Sweeney Sisters, and even Ivana Trump. Producers originally turned her down for a regular spot on the series in 1985 because they thought at age 28, she was too old, but they hired her the next year, when she was 29.
Next, Jan took her native Georgian accent to Designing Women as country bumpkin Carlene Dobber. She has also appeared in TV commercials for Nike Zoom Air sneakers (1997), as a regular on the series The Martin Short Show and The 1/2 Hour Comedy Hour, and in cameo and supporting roles in the feature films A Dangerous Woman, Batman Returns, Coneheads, and Pee-wee's Big Adventure.
Jan then went on to appear as a tyrannical Sunday School teacher in the film Simon Birch and in recurring roles on Third Rock from the Sun and Primetime Glick on Comedy Central. She also made multiple guest appearances on the hit sitcom 30 Rock.
Jan led a quiet life away from publicity, but her manager announced that she passed away on October 9, 2014 after a long battle with an undisclosed illness. She was 57.
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