Your Unauthorized Guide to the Golden Age of National Lampoon Magazine

R.I.P. Anne Beatts

April 15, 2021

Anne Beatts, regular contributing editor in the early years of National Lampoon, has died at the age of 74. She was also one of writers of Saturday Night Live in its first few seasons and created the tv series Square Pegs in 1982. (NY Times obit here.)

She was born in upstate New York, but moved to Canada with her mother and attended McGill University. While working as an advertising copywriter in Montreal, she met writers Sean Kelly and Michel Choquette and became romantically involved with Choquette. The three of them began writing for National Lampoon in 1970 and 1971, Beatts sharing bylines with Choquette at first. Later, she and Micheal O’Donoghue paired up and the two of them left the magazine and went to Saturday Night Live.

One of her best known pieces in National Lampoon was the infamous Volkswagen ad parody (based on an idea by Phil Socci) in The Encyclopedia of Humor (1973). It showed a VW floating in water (real VW ads around this time actually used this gimmick) with the headline: “If Ted Kennedy had driven a Volkswagen, he’d be President today”. (Volkswagen sued because they used the VW logo.)

Interview with Anne Beatts on Maximum Fun from 2007: Part 1, Part 2

R.I.P., Anne.


Technically, this was a brilliant work of parody, but it was heartless, playing personal tragedy for cheap laughs. It must have been incredibly hurtful for Mary Jo Kopechne's family to see a satirical advert making light of a parent's worst nightmare. However, Anne Beatts and Phil Socci doubled down when they described MJK as 'only 99 and 44/100 percent pure.' In effect: 'Ha-ha! Your daughter's dead, and she was a slut, too!' Kennedy may have deserved the roasting, but MJK did not.

—Bill J. from Austin

July 28, 2023 3:04 pm

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