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Oteri Can Wait to Find Mr. Right

By Susan Stewart

After five seasons on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," Cheri Oteri is barely herself anymore. She's better known as goofy cheerleader Arianna, prescription-pill popper Collette Reardon and nosy neighbor Rita Del Vecchio.

Her characters - addled women facing life with bravado, if not style - have made Oteri a comedy heroine. Lately she's taken her vulnerable, outrageous persona onscreen, with parts in "Inspector Gadget," "Love & Sex" and, most recently, the Wayans brothers' wacky genre sendup, "Scary Movie." Oteri met with freelance writer Susan Stewart in a cafe near her Upper West Side apartment to talk about her career, her pet and dental hygiene.

Lately several interviews with you have emphasized the fact that you live alone with a very spoiled cat. Does this worry you?
Is it a sign that I need more in my life? Maybe, but I see my cat the most! And when I get home, my cat throws herself on her back, like, "I'm glad to see you!"

Does it occur to you that another human being would also be glad to see you? You wrote an essay called "Funny Girl Seeks Mr. Right" in Harper's Bazaar. Is this a big aspect of your life?
I don't date much. I'm the kind of person who needs to know someone really well before I decide if I want to go out with them. I want to know. I want to have coffee with them before I have coffee with them. I'm picky . . . I know how to be alone.

Does your family in Philadelphia worry about this?
I was going to a spa with a girlfriend, and my grandma asked me, "Is she your companion? I'd like to meet your companion." I was like, "Oh, grandma, I'm not gay!" She says, "Oh, baby, I pray for you to find a nice man." She's Catholic, knows all the saints, so I asked, "Who do you pray to?" She said, "To St. Rita, saint of the impossible."

"Scary Movie," in which you play an addled TV reporter covering a serial killer, is truly wild. Was filming it as outrageous as watching it is?
Keenan [Wayans, the director] was so wonderful. We improvised so much of it. When I fall into the crowd and I get up and say, "Who copped a feel?" that was improvised. And the gum thing. When I'm going on camera and I have gum and I go, "Kenny, hold my gum!" to my cameraman [and she spits it at him] - he caught it! That was improvised, too.

You must be very proud.
Well, if a dumb movie is done in a smart way, then people will accept it. This was a smart take on dumb. Actually, maybe there's a better word than "dumb." Broad? Nope, the word is dumb.

Do you have a kind of taste-o-meter or taste compass that tells you when you've gone too far?
It's more about the characters I'm playing. If you believe the character, you'll accept the substance behind the character. My characters have no idea how off they are.

Your role doesn't really do a lot for your image as a desirable woman, considering that the trailer shows a close-up of your runny nose. Is that embarrassing?
Nobody knows it's me. Its the back of my head, back of my butt, then my nostril. All my best features.

Did they put glycerin up your nose to make it run?
No, it was computerized. No, what we actually did [sarcastically] was put a hole in my head and a tube down through my nose. You know, I do all my own stunts.

You did "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" a few weeks ago and seemed to forget to mention "Scary Movie" until the end of the show. What was that about?
Oh, Rosie's on the same floor [at the NBC studios in Rockefeller Center] as "SNL" and she's very supportive. We were having so much fun in the interview and just cracking up, we forgot to run the clip. I was like, "Oh my God, the Miramax people are there. I'm in trouble!"

It's hard not to notice that you have very nice teeth.
Thank you. I started brushing when I was very young.

Source: Newsday


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