Judging Jan

I spent the morning immersed in the news, looking for something to write about. I had such a difficult time being inspired that I found myself reading part of Maureen Dowd's column. That was very upsetting; let's never speak of it again. 

Then my friend Blayne posted on Facebook: "They really sucker punched me in the cry hole with that Jan Hooks tribute," and I knew immediately what I'd be writing. Jan Hooks isn't a household name, but she was a brilliant comedian who was an integral player on Saturday Night Live for five years. She was most often paired with Phil Hartman, which should give you an indication of how sharp her comedy chops were. She died last week at the age of 57 and, rather than miles-long articles detailing Twitter tributes, there was mostly a chorus of, "Wait, who?"

This isn't a post about respecting your comedy elders though. She was awesome and if the only way you know her is to watch clips, that's perfectly fine. This post is about an apology. 

Four years ago, SNL hosted a fantastic special on Mother's Day called The Women of SNL. They brought back everyone—except Victoria Jackson, possibly because she's an ultra-conservative whack-job these days. It was an hilarious and well-put-together compilation of some of the best sketches from SNL's female players. Lorraine Newman, Maya Rudolph, Molly Shannon, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Nora Dunn, Ana Gasteyer, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss - everybody was there. Hell, even Cheri Oteri, who never really progressed past the cheerleader sketches, showed up. Everybody was there but Jan Hooks. 

About 20 minutes into the episode, they did an awkward remote sketch with her, involving vague male prostitution references that didn't really click. She didn't look good. She'd gained a lot of weight and her words were slurred; she actually seemed to be having trouble speaking. So I did what we do way too often these days. I judged her—for her appearance, her inability to show up when everyone else did, her... well I guess, her egregious error of not aging well. I made assumptions about her life solely based on her appearance. She was fat and old and therefore a loser. What a sad end for a funny woman. 

It turns out of course that she was sick. With what, we don't know. A family member said she'd been 'not well for quite some time.' It doesn't really matter. What does matter is that I ignored the fact that someone who clearly wasn't at the top of their game had made a go of it anyway. She'd wanted to prove that she still had her wit and wits about her, no matter the cards life had dealt her of late. And I'd blown her off because she looked different than she used to. Because she wasn't the same woman she was 20 years ago. Jesus Mary, who is?

There are a lot of advances and changes we need to make around women, their rights, and their place in the world. But there is no more basic place to start than pure and simple acceptance. We are human. We age. We get sick. We wrinkle. We fail. None of that takes away from the life we've lived and the effect we've had on others. I'm sorry for being such an asshole Jan. I hope you rest well. 

Carla Cook

Austin, TX