She was one of only three female cast members SNL had at the time, joining Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner. Curtin was the more sane, level-headed one (both onscreen and off, as she never joined in the drug- and sex-fueled antics that happened backstage during her time on the show) and chafed under the fact that the male cast members were getting more screentime than the female ones. Despite this, Curtin made a name for herself as the show's first female Weekend Update anchor (and, as of 2020, is the only female solo anchor)...until she was paired with Dan Aykroyd (where she became the Phrase Catcher for the line, "Jane, you ignorant slut!"note ) and, later, Bill Murray.
Jane's notable recurring characters on SNL include: Audrey Peart Dickman (a Weekend Update correspondent whose commentary is often undermined by Chevy Chase making faces behind her back), Prymaat Conehead (one of the members of the Conehead family), Enid Loopner (mother of Gilda Radner's nerd girl, Lisa Loopner), and Joan Face (host of many public access talk shows the show had; most famously, Consumer Probe, where she interviews Dan Aykroyd's Irwin Mainway character). Curtin's notable celebrity impressions include: Anita Bryant, Ann Landers, Betty Ford, Betty Grable, Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nancy Reagan, Pat Nixon, Dolly Parton, and Vanessa Redgrave.
She later starred as Allie Lowell on Kate & Allie (a role for which she won two Emmy Awards) and Dr. Mary Albright on 3rd Rock from the Sun. Most of her work is in comedy and she tends to specialize in characters who are Comically Serious, leading to her nickname "Queen of Deadpan".