On Sunday night, Saturday Night Live‘s most memorable actors, actresses, and musical guests convened at NBC studios in New York City to mark the sketch comedy show’s 40th birthday. A total of 59 guests were in attendance, from SNL veterans Bill Murray and Billy Crystal to newcomers Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon.
The evening featured cameos from some of the show’s most unforgettable characters, including banal buzzkill Debbie Downer, played by Rachel Dratch, and Marty & Bobbi Culp, the singing duo that contorts contemporary pop songs into opera arias (Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer).
But despite an all-star lineup, a number of big names were omitted from the guest list, the most notable being that of Tracy Morgan, who is still recovering from a devastating car accident last June, and 90s alum Cheri Oteri.
An SNL regular from 1995 to 2000, Oteri was one of the show’s most popular stars during her 5-year reign. She landed at no. 94 on Rolling Stone’s ranking of SNL‘s 141 cast members, and TV Guide named her the 10th best SNL cast member of all time. NBC has also released a DVD titled “The Best Of Cheri Oteri,” in which the actress’ most cherished characters are immortalized.
Fans tuning in on Sunday were surely disappointed to see none of Oteri’s erractic, hysterical characters revived for the event. From Spartan cheerleader Ariana to disgruntled neighbor Rita DelVecchio to prescription pill-popper Collette Reardon and Will Ferrell’s Morning Latte co-host Cass Van Rye, Oteri’s was one of the more regular faces to appear on the show in the late 90s.
Given her popularity, Oteri’s absence came as a surprise to viewers. But the actress was quick to explain why she missed the show while visiting Watch What Happens Live on Monday night, People reports.
“To be fair, I have to say that I wasn’t originally able to go,” she explained to Bravo, “and then just a couple of days ago, I was able to pull it together.”
As E! Online reports, Oteri, though not able to do so for the televised event, was more than willing to resurrect her SNL characters for her appearance on What What Happens Live. She inhabited the spirits of Collette, the prescription pill addict, and Nadeen, whose catchphrase “Simma down now!” satiated the requests of multiple fans.