Kevin Nealon Remembers Jan Hooks and the 'Crazy Stratosphere' of Her Talent

Kevin Nealon Remembers Jan Hooks and the 'Crazy Stratosphere' of Her Talent
Kevin Nealon and Jan Hooks
David Livingston/Getty; Darryl James/Getty

10/10/2014 AT 08:45 AM EDT

Kevin Nealon was closer to Jan Hooks than most people in the '80s, even dating for a time as they shot to fame on Saturday Night Live.

On Thursday, Nealon recalled his former costar – who died earlier in the day at age 57 – as an incomparable talent.

"I was friends with her for a long time, and then we started dating for a while, and then we were on SNL together. I think the whole experience of going to New York to be on a show like SNL, I think about that a lot," the actor, 60, told PEOPLE at AOL's Fall Programming Premiere Event in Los Angeles.

Hooks's skill and commitment to comedy were incredible, he said.

"She was totally amazing as a sketch player. 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."

Kevin Nealon Remembers Jan Hooks and the 'Crazy Stratosphere' of Her Talent| Death, Tributes, Saturday Night Live, Jan Hooks, Kevin Nealon

Kevin Nealon as Tom Selleck and Jan Hooks as Barbara Mandrell on Saturday Night Live

Alan Singer / NBC

While they never cracked each other up on stage – breaking character was much more frowned upon then than it is now – Nealon said few people made him laugh as much offstage as Hooks.

"Just hard, long laughs at the weirdest, oddest things," he said. "She had such a bent look on things, and she taught me about the whole world of kitschiness. I remember how much she loved watching the Princess Di wedding. It was like the Super Bowl for her."

Nealon also recalled one story in particular that still makes him chuckle.

"She had a cat door in her apartment in Studio City," he said. "And a possum would come in every once in a while to eat out of the cat bowl. And she would let it, and it became a friend of hers. She called it Uncle Joe, because it was 'moving kinda slow.' "

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