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Anne Beatts, the creator of CBS sitcom Square Pegs and an original writer of Saturday Night Live, has died. She was 74.
Beatts died on Wednesday, Laraine Newman, an original castmember of SNL, wrote in a tweet Thursday. “Our Anne — an OG SNL writer passed away yesterday,” Newman wrote.
“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,” film producer Rona Edwards, a colleague of Beatts’ at Chapman University and a friend, added in a statement. “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.”
The recipient of two Emmy Awards, Beatts co-created several SNL characters alongside her writing partner Rosie Shuster, including Todd and Lisa Lupner, Irwin Mainway, Fred Garvin and Uncle Roy. Alongside creating and producing Square Pegs and her work on SNL, the writer-producer also wrote for The Stephanie Miller Show (on which she was additionally an executive producer) and Committed and co-executive produced A Different World from 1987 to 1988. When she died, Beatts was a lecturer at Chapman University’s Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.
“I’m heartbroken about losing Anne,” dean of Dodge College Stephen Galloway (who is also a former executive editor of THR) wrote in a letter sent to faculty and staff on Thursday. “It’s hard to believe that the vibrant, passionate, funny woman I just spoke to a few days ago is no longer with us. She was a pioneer in so many ways — as the first female editor of the Harvard Lampoon and one of the first women writers on Saturday Night Live. But she wasn’t just the Queen of Comedy; she was also an extraordinary mentor to many of our students. She’ll live on through them.”
Born in Buffalo, New York in February 1947, Beatts grew up in several places on the East Coast. After she attended McGill University in Montreal, where she wrote for the independent student newspaper the McGill Daily, she joined The National Lampoon as its first woman writer-editor. During her time at Saturday Night Live, between 1975 and 1980, she was nominated for five Emmy Awards. Her beloved sitcom Square Pegs, starring a young Sarah Jessica Parker, followed in 1982, but was canceled after one season.
Beatts went on to write, produce and direct a number of different titles, notably co-executive producing the first season of Cosby Show spinoff A Different World between 1987 and 1988 and writing and executive producing on the syndicated talk show The Stephanie Miller Show in 1995. She returned to SNL in 1999 to write and consult on a 25th-anniversary special for the series, for which she won her third WGA Award. By 2006, she and writer-producer partner Eve Brandstein co-directed and produced the film anthology series John Waters Presents Movies That Will Corrupt You. She and Brandstein also wrote and produced pilots including Julie Brown: The Show and The Belles of Bleecker Street. In 2016, THR reported that Beatts was set to co-create and co-executive produce a Blues Brothers animated series alongside Dan Aykroyd and Judy Belushi.
Beatts also wrote for magazines and newspapers, contributing the humor column “Beatts Me!” to the Los Angeles Times between 1997 and 1998, as well as for books: She co-edited 1977’s Saturday Night Live, 1976’s Titters: The First Collection of Humor by Women and 1984’s Titters 101. She also co-wrote 1986’s The Mom Book. On Broadway, she wrote the book for the 1985 jukebox musical Leader of the Pack, based on the life of Ellie Greenwich, and wrote for 1980’s Gilda Live.
In addition to teaching at Chapman University, Beatts taught writing for film and television at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and the School of Cinema and Television Arts at California State University at Northridge.
Beatts is survived by her daughter, Jaylene Beatts; her sister, Barbara; brother, Murray; and nieces Kate and Jennifer.
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