Anne Beatts Dies: Pioneering ‘Saturday Night Live’ Writer, ‘Square Pegs’ Creator Was 74

Anne Beatts, an original Saturday Night Live writer who created some of the show’s earliest breakthrough characters, most notably the nerdy high schoolers Todd and Lisa Lupner, died yesterday.

Her death was announced in a tweet by SNL original cast member Laraine Newman. Additional details were not disclosed.

Beatts, who also created the 1982 CBS sitcom Square Pegs starring Sarah Jessica Parker, began her career in comedy writing with a stint at National Lampoon magazine, becoming the Harvard Lampoon spin-off’s first female editor. While there, she met and befriended Michael O’Donoghue, and the two would soon take part in the development of Lorne Michaels’ Saturday Night Live.

Along with her writing partner Rosie Shuster, Beatts created such foundational SNL characters as Todd and Lisa (played by Bill Murray and Gilda Radnor), Laraine Newman’s Shirley Temple-like Child Psychiatrist, the lecherous Uncle Roy (Buck Henry) and two of Dan Aykroyd’s greatest hits: the cartoonishly sleazy salesman Irwin Mainway and Fred Garvin, the unlikely male prostitute.

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As one of SNL‘s first female voices, Beatts often spoke of the challenges and triumphs of those years. She famously clashed with the show’s early breakout star John Belushi, saying in a 2009 TV Academy interview that her early friendship with the volatile comedian soon gave way to resentment on his part.

“I had a complex relationship with Belushi,” she said. “Initially I felt very protective of him and thought of him as this sweet, pussycat guy…” Later, she continued, Belushi got “adversarial” with the women on the show and told “Lorne he should fire the girls and refuse to be in pieces that we wrote.” Despite the strained friendship, Beatts said she considered Belushi “a genius.”

In addition to SNL, Beatts created and produced the short-lived but fondly remembered Square Pegs. In the 2009 interview, Beatts said she chose to hire a mostly female writing staff since the sitcom was focuses on the friendship of two high school girls (played by Parker and Amy Linker). “They needed to be people who had been girls in high school,” Beatts said, adding that CBS demanded she hire comedy writer Andy Borowitz as “the token guy” on the writing staff.

After Square Pegs, Beatts co-executive-produced the first season of NBC’s A Different World and in 1995 exec-produced the syndicated The Stephanie Miller Show.

For Broadway, Beatts wrote the 1979 one-woman show Gilda Radnor – Live From New York, and is the book for the 1985 Ellie Greenwich jukebox musical Leader of the Pack.

More recently, Beatts was involved in the development of a new Blues Brothers project with Aykroyd and Judy Belushi, John Belushi’s widow.

Beatts was an Adjunct Professor in the Writing Division at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, as well as at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

 

 

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