Sarah Jessica Parker & Others Mourn Trailblazing Comedy Writer Anne Beatts
Anne Beatts, one of the original writers on "Saturday Night Live" and an Emmy-winning trailblazer as a woman in the traditionally male-dominated field of comedy, died Wednesday at her West Hollywood home, The New York Times reports. She was 74.
Her death was first announced by original "SNL" cast member Laraine Newman, and later confirmed by her family, with no cause given.
Her film producer friend Rona Edwards summed up the thoughts of many, telling THR, "Anne was a pioneer — she truly paved the way for women in comedy and female comedy writers in particular who may not have had their shot if Anne hadn't come before them — but overall, she was my friend — my heart is completely broken. She was one of a kind and no one can ever replace her wit, her wisdom, and her talent, but to me, nothing can ever replace her friendship and humanity."
Of her fabled early years on "SNL" (1976-1980), Beatts humbly told Dick Cavett in 1986 that fans had built them up "beyond what it was." She told The Orange Country Register in 2013, "I was lucky that when Lorne Michaels came looking for women comedy writers there weren't too many in New York at the time. I was at the top of a very short list."
Among many other "SNL" highlights, Beatts and writing partner Rosie Shuster created Nerds Lisa Loopner (Gilda Radner) and Todd DiLaMuca (Bill Murray). She also acted on the show, often in parodies of popular commercials she wrote.
Prior to "SNL," Beatts had been a prominent writer at National Lampoon, where she co-wrote a notorious Volkswagen ad parody that skewered Ted Kennedy over the Chappaquiddick incident. Though the publisher was sued by Volkswagen, Beatts rose to become the first woman EIC of the satirical magazine.
Beatts was portrayed by Natasha Lyonne in the 2018 film "A Futile and Stupid Gesture," which focused on the atmosphere at National Lampoon in the '70s.
For Beatts' most personal project, the cult-classic high school sitcom "Square Pegs" (1982-1983) — which was swamped in the ratings by "Little House on the Prairie" and finished off by "The A-Team" — she hired Sarah Jessica Parker to play nerdy Patty Greene after a nationwide search headed up by casting director Eve Brandstein.
"I remember that, strangely, Sarah Jessica Parker was the first person that we ever read for the role," Beatts recalled on the "Square Pegs" DVD extras. "I immediately remarked on her talent, but I reacted to her as being too pretty to play this part."
On her Instagram page, Parker remembered Beatts with a throwback photo, writing, "Anne Beatts Pioneer. Creator. An original. Life changer. I loved Patty Greene. I love my 'Square Pegs' memories. And I loved Anne Beatts. RIP X, SJ."
Filmmaker Judd Apatow paid homage to Beatts on Twitter, acknowledging how "Square Pegs" had influenced his own gone-too-soon series, "Freaks and Geeks." He tweeted, "I interviewed Anne Beatts when I was in high school. She was so kind. Square Pegs was a huge inspiration to us at Freaks and Geeks and to so much of our work. Her sketches at SNL were my favorites and seeing Gilda Live From NY is one of my favorite comedy memories. RIP."
Among Beatts' many other credits of note, she was co-executive producer on Season 1 of "A Different World" (1987-1988), wrote and produced the talk show "The Stephanie Miller Show" (1995), wrote "SNL's" 1999 award-winning 25th-anniversary special, published several books, and wrote the book for the 1985 musical "Leader of the Pack," a revered jukebox musical about pop singer and writer Ellie Greenwich.
Beatts is survived by her daughter, her sister, her brother, and two nieces.