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Cheri Oteri Biography


Home > Actresses > O > Oteri, Cheri > Biography


Birth Name: Cheri Oteri
Born: 09/19/1962
Birth Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


Cheryl Ann O'Teari was born on Sept. 19, 1965 in Philadelphia, PA and raised along with siblings Brian, Denise and Tom in the suburb of Upper Darby. Oteri never grew up dreaming about being a comedy performer, but as a student at Archbishop Prendergast High School, had a serious interest in music. At the tail end of the 1980s, after several years of temping, she moved to Los Angeles to get more involved in the music business. From 1990-94, she began her career working in promotions at A&M Records, where she had a reputation for routinely making her colleagues laugh. At the suggestion of one, Oteri decided to try her hand at comedy, starting to take courses with L.A.'s famed improvisational company, The Groundlings. It was also at that time that the comic decided to officially go from "O'Teari" to "Oteri" - which people had already erroneously tended to rhyme with her first name.

By 1994, Oteri had left her job at A&M, temping once more while devoting herself to appearances with The Groundlings, with which she had become a permanent performing member. That spring, her work came to the attention of "S.N.L." creator-producer Lorne Michaels after an agent spotted one of her performances. Like many fledgling comedians before her, Oteri was flown to New York to audition for the iconic show in the summer of 1995. Two months later, she made her first appearance on the show. With the housecleaning that followed the 1994-1995 season, the next year's cast was mostly comprised of new players, and Oteri - along with fellow newcomer Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer - were soon helping in the return of a sturdy female presence to the series.

On "S.N.L.," Oteri began getting considerable airtime with a slew of celebrity impressions and characters, devised either by herself or in conjunction with her fellow castmates. Often times, this meant taking the initiative of writing sketches herself. As her personality often veered towards energetic, one of her most famous characters arose when towering co-star Will Ferrell caught her absentmindedly foot-tapping and chimed in with the beat, which gave the two an idea for a cheerleading sketch. Playing the oft-seen Arianna and Craig - two limber, enthusiastic unofficial cheerleaders for the Spartans football team - the pair made good use of clever wordplay and diametrically opposed physiques. Oteri also created sassy neighborhood porch lady Rita Del Vecchio, patterned after her tough-talking grandmother; an easily enraged employee named Nadine; and re-teamed with Ferrell for a mock-up of chipper morning show talk shows, with Oteri handling the part of the maddeningly upbeat co-host Cass Van Rye of "Morning Latte."

Since her originals were ongoing fixtures over the years, Oteri's impressions were good enough to merit compliments from the real-life figures they ribbed. Veteran TV anchor Barbara Walters was a fan, as was the no-nonsense Judge Judy Sheindlin of "Judge Judy" (syndicated, 1996- ). In 1998, Sheindlin famously capped off Oteri's run as the judge by appearing as herself at the end of one of Oteri's parodies. Oteri also shone in impersonations of male figures, even one point, aping pint-sized presidential hopeful Ross Perot.

During her "S.N.L." period, Oteri began appearing in movies, often as a brief, bright spot of comic relief. She had a small role as Jane, the loopy receptionist of Jim Carrey in "Liar Liar" (1997), before putting in inspired cameos as a flight attendant in "S.N.L." vet Mike Myers' "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997) and as a phone operator in the toys-gone-wild blockbuster, "Small Soldiers" (1998). Back on the small screen, Oteri appeared as the bumbling office assistant Cindy on the NBC sitcom, "Just Shoot Me!" (1997-2003) in 1997. Returning for a second guest spot in 1999 netted her an Emmy Award nomination. After five strong years, Oteri left "S.N.L." in 2000, but was quickly able to put her improv skills back to work under director Keenan Ivory Wayans, who cast her as the humorously haughty reporter Gail Hailstorm in the horror movie spoof, "Scary Movie" (2000).

Into the new millennium, Oteri popped up in various supporting roles that took advantage of her recognizable face and her tendency to tap into the boil beneath characters' inviting veneers. She memorably became the bane of Larry David's existence in 2002, as the unstable nanny Martine on "Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000- ), and took that dark edge even further as the pumped-up Marxist Zora Carmichaels of Richard Kelly's big screen apocalypse satire, "Southland Tales" (2006). After a slew of live action onscreen work, Oteri brought her distinctive voice to the world of feature animation, first cast as the voice of Doreen Nickle, the oblivious mother of a forlorn boy in "The Ant Bully" (2006). In 2007, however, Oteri and a bevy of former "S.N.L." talents stormed the fairy tale gates of "Shrek the Third" (2007) as modernized princesses. As was typical of the "Shrek" movies, and its princess, Oteri's was no dainty damsel, with her narcoleptic Sleeping Beauty was not quite the Disney classic audiences would remember.