Back in the late 1980s, when I was a kid and started watching "Saturday Night Live", Jan Hooks was part of the cast. It was, in retrospect, one of the great periods for SNL. Along with Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Kevin Nealon, Mike Meyers, and Victoria Jackson, this was the time of such memorable recurring sketches as "Wayne's World", "Sprockets", "Church Lady", the first President Bush, Caveman Lawyers, and lots more. Hooks and Nora Dunn had a recurring sketch, the Sweeney Sisters, about two over-the-hill, over-the-top lounge singers which was very funny.
But Jan Hooks stood out as the best female impersonator in the history of SNL. There simply wasn't one female person of note that she didn't impersonate and totally nail: Tammy Faye Bakker, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, Sinead O'Connor, Diane Sawyer and, as you can see here, Kathie Lee Gifford. Jan Hooks just dissolved into whoever she was imitating and, sometimes, she seemed more real and believable than the real people. You never got the sense that Jan Hooks was trying to be funny -- she just was funny, naturally, and made it seem totally effortless. She was amazingly talented.
Jan Hooks never had a huge career after SNL -- she was on some sitcoms and did guest roles here and there. It's too bad, because she was as good as any man who came out of that show. It was harder, then, for female comedians to brake out but she paved the way for people like Kristen Wiig and Sarah Silverman who came afterwards. But Jan Hooks was a memorable talent and her death at age 57 is very sad.
But I'll always remember the laughter she gave me as a kid back on those dark Saturday nights in front of the TV. Thank you, Jan.