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Comedian Jan Hooks dies at age 57

By Todd Leopold and Rachel Wells, CNN
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hooks launched her career on "The Bill Tush Show" in Atlanta
  • She performed on "Saturday Night Live" from 1986-91
  • She played the character Carlene Dobber on "Designing Women"

(CNN) -- Jan Hooks, the actress and comedian who rose to fame with sly turns on "Saturday Night Live" as Ivana Trump, Tammy Faye Bakker, Sinead O'Connor and as part of the lounge-singing Sweeney Sisters, has died. She was 57.

Her representative, Lisa Lieberman, confirmed the death to CNN. The cause of death was not revealed.

In the late-'80s era of the show that also featured Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Nora Dunn and later Mike Myers, Hooks was the definition of a team player, always putting the sketch first. It was a character-actress attitude, one admired by others on the show.

"She was totally amazing as a sketch player," one of her colleagues, Kevin Nealon, told People magazine.

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"She so immersed herself in her characters, and her timing was amazing. She got it from some crazy stratosphere, and I was so attracted to that talent in her, and I don't think she ever knew how well respected and admired she was for her talent," said Nealon, who also dated Hooks for a while.

Hooks' ability can best be seen in her portrayal of Tammy Faye Bakker, part of the evangelist couple who co-founded the PTL Club and were later embroiled in scandal. Bakker, in many ways, was an easy target: an overwrought figure who wore heavy eye makeup, the very caricature of an evangelist's wife. But Hooks found something deeper, as she showed in a "Church Chat" sketch during the days when PTL was in trouble due to a Jim Bakker affair and accusations of high living by the couple.

Hooks also stood out with her portrayal of Candy Sweeney, the blonde half of an effervescent pair of lounge singers who ladled on bad jokes and schmaltzy versions of pop hits, ignorant of their over-the-top performances. They regularly included a clanging version of "The Trolley Song" from the '40s movie "Meet Me in St. Louis."

Leslie Jones is going from "Saturday Night Live's" writers room to the main stage. The comedic talent has been promoted to "SNL's" main cast after getting her start behind the scenes in January. Click through to see other female SNL comedians through the years: Leslie Jones is going from "Saturday Night Live's" writers room to the main stage. The comedic talent has been promoted to "SNL's" main cast after getting her start behind the scenes in January. Click through to see other female SNL comedians through the years:
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But Hooks generally shunned the star turns others took on the show. In "The Sinatra Group," a parody of "The McLaughlin Group" led by Phil Hartman's Frank Sinatra, she was a deadly serious Sinead O'Connor, letting Hartman get the laughs for his tough-talking Sinatra.

Hooks was on "SNL" from 1986 to 1991. She wasn't planning to leave the show, she later said, but was offered a part on "Designing Women" and couldn't pass up the opportunity. She played Carlene Dobber for two seasons on the show, which was set in Atlanta, right next to her hometown.

Hooks was born in Decatur, Georgia, in 1957. After moving to Florida and Texas in her teen years, she returned to Atlanta and joined a comedy troupe named the New Wit's End Players, where she met writers Bonnie and Terry Turner.

The three soon had jobs on a TBS show built around the offbeat Bill Tush, back when TBS was Ted Turner's Atlanta Braves-airing "SuperStation." (Tush later became a CNN showbiz correspondent.) The Turners -- no relation to Ted -- also worked on "SNL" and later created "3rd Rock from the Sun," which occasionally featured Hooks.

Did you ever meet Hooks? Share your photos and memories with CNN iReport

Hooks also appeared on "30 Rock" and sometimes provided the voice of Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon, the wife of convenience store owner Apu, on "The Simpsons."

Comedian Jan Hooks dies at age 57

Hooks had roles in just a handful of movies, but her turn in "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" (1985) as an Alamo tour guide had many people sharing the scene on social media.

"Not now, but sometime this weekend I'll think of Jan Hooks saying 'adobe' and I'll get tear-eyed. I know it. #RIPJanHooks," tweeted Patton Oswalt.

Hooks also appeared in "Batman Returns" (1992), "Coneheads" (1993) and "Simon Burch" (1998).

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CNN's Ralph Ellis contributed to this story.

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