'SNL' alum Cheri Oteri: 'Love Virtually' exposes absurdity of tech obsession

Cheri Oteri's new rom-com, "Love Virtually," was released this week on pay-per-view platforms. Photo courtesy of Premiere Digital
1 of 4 | Cheri Oteri's new rom-com, "Love Virtually," was released this week on pay-per-view platforms. Photo courtesy of Premiere Digital

NEW YORK, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- The Groundlings and Saturday Night Live alum Cheri Oteri says her new live-action, 3D animated comedy, Love Virtually, reflects how many people seek human connection in a high-tech world.

Starring Stephen Tobolowsky, Peter Gilroy, Nikki Howard, Henry Dittman, Paige Mobley and Paul F. Tompkins, the movie follows four couples of various ages and stages of their lives who go to extreme lengths to find true love online. It is streaming on pay-per-view platforms.


Oteri, 61, told UPI in a phone interview Thursday that she read the screenplay for the film shortly after the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns of 2020 had separated people from their loved ones, sometimes for months.

She said she immediately recognized the truth in the story.

"I just realized how isolating it was for so many people," Oteri said.

"It was so lonely for so many people and this was the only way that you could connect. It was coming from all different types of characters, which I loved," she added.


"I thought it had heart and humor and I love how we end all these stories gathered in this [virtual] club and everyone was there and no one was actually there."

The film mines for laughs not just from virtual romances, but from couples who ignore each other to focus on their devices, video-game competitions, Zoom therapy sessions and social-media personalities who get canceled for what they've said or failed to say.

"It really is a fun movie exposing the absurdity of reality," Oteri said, explaining how it shows the technology that connects us can also make us more disconnected than we've ever been.

"My husband and I in the film are looking at each other with such disgust, while falling in love [with each other unwittingly] online," she added.

To emphasize the point about how people seem to prefer tech to real interaction, Oteri recalled how she recently texted a real-life friend in the hospital to see if she wanted to talk on the phone, but the person replied, "No, that's OK. I'll wait until I'm home and feeling better and we'll catch up."

"I find that people -- I even do it myself sometimes -- don't want to make small talk," Oteri said.


"The great thing about texting is that you can get right to the subject, but there are some things that you just can't replace," she added. "When i was younger, you sat around the kitchen table and you talked and you talked and you laughed."

She recalled first hearing about the advent of email when she was working on SNL in the late 1990s.

"I thought, 'That's never going to work. No one's going to want [that]," she said. "Now I get a letter, I'm like, 'Who the hell is writing me a letter?' Now it's called 'papering.' I'm like, 'OK.' We have all of this technological advancement and some of them are great, but other parts are disconnecting us."

Speaking during a week when the Israel-Hamas war and contentious elections dominated the news, and Hollywood's actors guild wound down a tense, 4-month-long strike, Oteri said she thinks comedy is greatly valued in times of darkness and division.

"You almost feel bad sometimes laughing because of all the horrors that people are experiencing," she said.

"I just want people to take power who will lead us to peace and prosperity and healing," she added. "I can't believe the abuse of power that we are experiencing. Laughter is so damn important."


Oteri recently started making TikTok videos for fun and has gotten an incredible response from viewers of all ages.

"Now, I get to reach an audience that I felt separated from. When people say, 'Thank you for making me laugh,' or 'Thank you, I needed that' ... I'm so touched by that," she said.

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