It’s been two and a half weeks since Jan Hooks, SNL superstar and amazing actress and comedian, died of an “undisclosed illness.” Every day since her death, I’ve put off writing this follow-up post. I wanted to wait until someone gave the world some kind of statement on what sort of illness she struggled with, why she seemed heavier in recent years, why her face looked puffy and a little misshapen. (All my links to sources with pictures are here, in my original post.) I guessed her changing looks might have been due to corticosteroid use, possibly related to a chronic illness, but that was pure speculation on my part. I’ve been anxiously awaiting a statement from a reliable source that provides a little more information. At the very least, I want to make sure I correct myself if, in my rush to fill a gap in the public knowledge of the situation, I’ve pulled something completely out of my ass.
Two-and-half-weeks later, however, we the total strangers interested in Hooks’s life and death still have no answers. I’m guessing, too, that we’re not going to get any answers anytime soon. The only news outlet I can find that’s commented on Hooks’s cause of death has been the Daily Mail in the UK, which published this article on October 10th claiming that Hooks had cancer. However, no other media outlet seems to be running with this story. Recently, for example, several reports covering Tina Fey’s tribute to Hooks at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards either don’t mention a cause of death or cite the ambiguous “undisclosed illness.” (In their coverage of Fey’s remarks, Yahoo TV does manage to straddle the line between knowing and not knowing: “While the cause of [Hooks’s] death has yet to be disclosed, it’s believed she died from cancer.”) This hesitation might be because of the fact that the Daily Mail is not known for its trustworthy reporting. (I happen to know that popular humor website Cracked.com will not accept the Daily Mail as source material in its article pitches. That’s right: professional purveyors of dick and boob jokes think the Daily Mail is beneath their editorial standards.)
So what’s with all the silence? I couldn’t say, but I’m not going to press the issue. Illness and death are hard topics in and of themselves. I don’t want to put pressure on a grieving family, who owes me nothing, just because I happen to be curious about a famous family member’s medical history. Jan Hooks died young. For now, that will have to be that.
There are also plenty of other things about Hooks’s life and career to talk about. One major issue that Fey brought up: why didn’t Hooks have a bigger career? (Fey’s exact words were: “Jan deserved a big movie career. Certainly as big as Rob Schneider’s f—ing career. She was a bigger star on ‘SNL.'”) Did Hooks run into problems as a female performer? Did her anxiety and stage fright become too overwhelming? (Okay, I know, I’m back on the medical speculation. But anxiety’s another big deal in my life, and once again I’m curious about how Hooks coped.) Did Hooks’s changing appearance contribute to her fading into the background in the entertainment industry? Why did looks even matter, when she kicked so much ass as Jenna Maroney’s mother, Verna, on “30 Rock”? Doesn’t it suck that we now live in a world without Jan Hooks, Gilda Radner, and Joan Rivers? And Robin Williams and Phil Hartman? Come on, Grim Reaper, give us a break. We need all the laughs we can get these days.
Anyway, here’s a funny, funny clip from Hooks’s days at SNL. I had no idea she had a Kathie Lee Gifford in her repertoire. Also interesting to see how much things have changed since the 1980s–and how much they haven’t. Enjoy!