5 Legendary Female SNL Writers, In Honor of Lorne Michaels's New Hire
Saturday Night Live's newest addition to its writing staff, the New York comedian Jessi Klein, may mark a determined mid-season pivot on the part of Lorne Michaels's series. With cast member Kristin Wiig consistently performing the most memorable material on the show, perhaps the macho mechanics in the writer's room need a douse of Klein's Best Week Ever-circa-2007 magic. In honor of Klein's new position, Movieline revisits five women who changed SNL for the better or, sometimes, found greener pastures far away from the confines of 8H.
Lorne Michaels hired Beatts and two other female writers during SNL's inaugural season. She developed Bill Murray and Gilda Radner's adorable "nerds" sketch as well as Dan Aykroyd's sublime "Fred Garvin: Male Prostitute," eventually winning two Emmys during her five-year tenure. Beatts also dated SNL legend Michael O'Donoghue and created the seminal '80s series Square Pegs, which we can safely call the Freaks & Geeks of its time.
Marilyn Suzanne Miller
Another writer whose skill was instrumental in developing Gilda Radner's greatest hits, Miller co-wrote legendary female-centric bits like the stellar "Slumber Party" sketch featuring Madeline Kahn and skits for Radner's rambunctious girl scout Judy Miller, whose last name is no coincidence. Marilyn Miller's style, a combination of humor and emotional realism, was so specific that her contributions were deemed "Marilyn sketches."
Though she only wrote on SNL during its '80-'81 season when the original Not Ready For Primetime Players left the show and the ascent of Eddie Murphy began, Marx's written output includes features in The New York Times, Time, The New Yorker, Vogue, and Atlantic Monthly. Aside from penning the novel Him Her Him Again The End of Him in 2007, her most historic achievement remains being elected as one of the first two women on the Harvard Lampoon in the early '70s. She once said of her experience on Saturday Night Live: "Dick Ebersol came in as the new producer and he made this grand speech about us all being family and then fired everyone."
After a year of submitting material for cast member Jan Hooks in the mid-'80s, Lorne Michaels hired Turner and husband Terry as fulltime writers, and they eventually won an Emmy as part of the 1989 staff. The duo would go on to help write SNL's greatest cinema, including Coneheads, Wayne's World, and Wayne's World 2. Though they achieved their biggest successes by creating 3rd Rock from the Sun and That '70s Show, their work on the indispensable The Brady Bunch Movie is the grandest feat in my understanding of western civilization. "This is a carjack!" "Of course this is a car! But my name's not Jack, it's Greg. And this is my sister Marcia."
While she's been a popular and influential stand-up comedian for more than a generation (having performed on Letterman's show 25 times), Leifer landed her first big writing gig on the '85-'86 season of SNL, which will henceforth be known as "The Anthony Michael Hall Reign of Terror." Leifer would go on to write six episodes of Seinfeld and earn the title "the real Elaine," as Julia Louis-Dreyfus's character was partly based on her. She just released her first book When You Lie About Your Age, The Terrorists Win in March, and she'll appear in the third season of Celebrity Apprentice this spring.