Anne Beatts has died. A pioneer in the world of comedy writing, Beatts is probably best known for her five-year run as a writer on the early days of Saturday Night Live, where, as one of the few women on the show’s writing staff, she helped craft any number of classic characters and sketches. After leaving the series, Beatts went on to create TV of her own, most notably the cult high school sitcom Square Pegs, helping to launch the career of a young Sarah Jessica Parker in the process. According to Variety, Beatts’ death was confirmed today by her long-time friend Rona Edwards. Beatts was 74.
Beatts first gained prominence as a comedy writer with her tenure as an editor at the National Lampoon, one of several comedy tributaries that fed into the writing staff of the original SNL. (She was renowned for co-writing a fake advertisement that earned the magazine a lawsuit from Volkswagen.) Upon joining the series, Beatts often paired up with fellow writer Rosie Shuster, where they were frequently tasked with developing material for the female members of the show’s staff, most especially Gilda Radner. (Like many of the early SNL writers, Beatts served as a writer on Radner’s 1980 one-man show Gilda Live.) Beatts wrote for SNL for the entirety of the original Lorne Michaels tenure on the series, creating characters like Todd and Lisa Lupner (a.k.a. The Nerds), Buck Henry’s deeply unsettling “Uncle Roy,” and Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute.
In the 1980s, Beatts set out on her own, creating Square Pegs for CBS. Heralded for telling the same sorts of teen-focused stories that John Hughes would spend the next decade mining for hits, the single-season show sported a cast of future stars (most notably Parker), a new wave-heavy soundtrack, and at least a few cameo performances from Beatts’ old friends—most notably Bill Murray in a single-episode guest star role. (Father Guido Sarducci also appeared.) Unfortunately, reports of dysfunction on the show’s set led to to the studio pulling the plug on a promising start, ending the series after a single season.
After Square Pegs ended, Beatts continued to write with some regularity, penning an episode of Murphy Brown in the ’90s, and writing for comedian Stephanie Miller’s short-lived late-night talk show in 1995. She also served for many years as a writing teacher, serving as an adjunct professor at the University Of Southern California, and at Chapman University.