Jane Therese Curtin (born September 6, 1947) is an American actress and comedian. She is sometimes referred to as "Queen of the Deadpan"; The Philadelphia Inquirer once called her a "refreshing drop of acid." She was included on a 1986 list of the "Top Prime Time Actors and Actresses of All Time."
First coming to prominence as an original cast member on the hit TV comedy series Saturday Night Live in 1975, she went on to win back-to-back Emmy Awards for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series on the 1980s sitcom Kate & Allie portraying the role of Allison "Allie" Lowell. Curtin later starred in the hit series 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996–2001), playing the role of Dr. Mary Albright.
Curtin has also appeared in many movie roles, including Charlene in The Librarian series of movies (2004–2008). She also reprised one of her Saturday Night Live characters, Prymaat (Clorhone) Conehead, in the 1993 film Coneheads.
Curtin was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the daughter of Mary Constance (née Farrell) and John Joseph Curtin, who owned an insurance agency.
She grew up in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and graduated from Convent of the Sacred Heart, Elmhurst Academy in Portsmouth, Rhode Island in 1965.
She married Patrick Francis Lynch (a television producer) on April 2, 1975; they have one daughter, Tess Curtin Lynch, born in 1983. They live in Sharon, Connecticut.
She has a brother, Larry Curtin, who lives in South Florida; their older brother, John J. "Jack" Curtin, died in 2008. She was raised a Roman Catholic. Curtin is a cousin of actress and writer Valerie Curtin. Her uncle was the radio personality Joseph Curtin.
Curtin holds an associate degree from Elizabeth Seton Junior College in New York City, class of 1967. She then attended Northeastern University from 1967 to 1968.
She has served as a U.S. Committee National Ambassador for UNICEF. In 1968, Curtin decided to pursue comedy as a career and dropped out of college. She joined a comedy group, "The Proposition", and performed with them until 1972. She starred in Pretzels, an off-Broadway play written by Curtin, John Forster, Judith Kahan and Fred Grandy, in 1974.
Saturday Night Live
One of the original "Not Ready For Prime Time Players" for NBC's Saturday Night Live (1975), Curtin remained on the show through the 1979–1980 season. Guest host Eric Idle said that Curtin was "very much a 'Let's come in, let's know our lines, let's do it properly, and go' ... She was very sensible, very focused", and disliked the drug culture that many of the cast participated in. Show writer Al Franken stated that she "was so steady. Had a really strong moral center, and as such was disgusted by much of the show and the people around it".
On this show, and mirroring her own low-key real life, she frequently played straight-woman characters, often as a foil to John Belushi and Gilda Radner. Curtin anchored SNL's "Weekend Update" segment from 1976 to 1977, and was paired with Dan Aykroyd from 1977 to 1978 and Bill Murray from 1978 to 1980. On occasional Weekend Update segments, her newscaster character served as a foil to John Belushi, who often gave a rambling and out-of-control "commentary" on events of the day. During these sketches, she timidly tried to get Belushi to come to the point, which would only make him angrier. Curtin's newscaster also introduced baseball expert Chico Escuela (Garrett Morris), a heavily accented Dominican, who started his sketches by saying, "Thank you, Hane", before repeating his famous catchphrase, "Baseball been bery, bery good to me!" She also sang in the "Chevy's Girls" sketch in season 2, episode 2, alongside Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner.
In a parody of the "Point-Counterpoint" segment of the news program 60 Minutes, Curtin delivered a controlled liberal viewpoint (à la Shana Alexander) vs. Dan Aykroyd, who (in the manner of James J. Kilpatrick) epitomized the right wing view, albeit with an over-the-top "attack" journalist slant. Curtin presented the liberal "Point" portion first. Then Aykroyd presented the "Counterpoint" portion, sometimes beginning with the statement, "Jane, you ignorant slut," to which she replied, "Dan, you pompous ass." The recurring segment has been discussed in an article on "How to Respectfully Disagree" in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Curtin is also well known for her role in the Conehead sketches as Prymaat (wife/mother of the Conehead family), and as Enid Loopner (in sketches with Gilda Radner and Bill Murray). She is one of many cast members who appear in the retrospective compilation DVD The Women of SNL (2010, 97 minutes).
Later television work
Unlike many of her fellow SNL cast members who ventured successfully into film, Curtin chose to stay in television. Her film appearances have been sporadic. To date, she has starred in two long-running television sitcoms. First, in Kate & Allie (1984–89), with Susan Saint James, she played a single mother named "Allie Lowell" and twice won the Emmy Award for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
She later joined the cast of 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996–2001) playing a human, Dr. Mary Albright, opposite the alien family, composed of John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston, French Stewart, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. As with SNL, her mostly strait-laced character was often confounded by the zany and whimsical antics of the Solomon family.
In 1997, Curtin narrated two episodes of the documentary television series Understanding.
She has done voice work for Recess, and Cyberchase; she also guest starred on Sesame Street in 1985.
Curtin also starred with Fred Savage in the ABC sitcom Crumbs, which debuted in January 2006 and was canceled in May of that year. She also guest-starred on Gary Unmarried as Connie, Allison's mother. In 2012, she joined Unforgettable as Dr. Joanne Webster, a gifted but crusty medical examiner.
In 1980, Jane starred with Susan Saint James and Jessica Lange in the moderate hit How to Beat the High Cost of Living. In 1993, Curtin and Dan Aykroyd were reunited in Coneheads, a full-length motion picture based on their popular SNL characters. They also appeared together as the voices of a pair of wasps in the film Antz. In 2009, she played Paul Rudd and Andy Samberg's mother in I Love You, Man. In 2013 she took a small role in The Heat as Mrs. Mullins, the mother of Detective Mullins.
Curtin has also performed on Broadway on occasion. She first appeared on the Great White Way as Miss Proserpine Garnett in the play Candida in 1981. She later went on to be a replacement actress in two other plays: Love Letters and Noises Off, and was in the 2002 revival of Our Town, which received huge press attention as Paul Newman returned to the Broadway stage after several decades away.
She also has narrated several audio books, including Carl Hiaasen's novel Nature Girl.
On May 7, 2010, Curtin placed second in the Jeopardy! Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational, winning $250,000 for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Michael McKean won the tournament, while Cheech Marin came in third.
She presented the Emmy Awards in 1984, 1987, and 1998; the 11th Annual American Comedy Awards in 1997; and the 54th Annual Golden Globe Awards in 1997.
Curtin has guest hosted several episodes of Selected Shorts produced by Symphony Space and distributed by Public Radio International.