Teri Garr can claim a career in show business by birthright. She was born in Lakewood, Ohio, the daughter of Eddie Garr (born Edward Leo Gonnoud), a Broadway stage and film actor, and Phyllis Garr (née Emma Schmotzer), a dancer. Her maternal grandparents were Austrian, and her father was of Irish descent.
While she was still an infant, her family moved from Hollywood to New Jersey but, after the death of her father when she was 11, the family returned to Hollywood, where her mother became a wardrobe mistress for movies and television. While Garr's dancing can be seen in nine Elvis Presley movies, her first speaking role in motion pictures was in the 1968 feature Head, starring The Monkees. In the 1970s she became well established in television with appearances on shows such as Star Trek (1966), It Takes a Thief (1968) and McCloud (1970), and became a semi-regular on The Sonny and Cher Show (1976) as Cher's friend, Olivia.
Garr has since risen to become one of Hollywood's most versatile, energetic and well-recognized actresses. She has starred in many memorable films, including Young Frankenstein (1974), Oh, God! (1977), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Mr. Mom (1983), After Hours (1985) and her Academy Award-nominated performance for Best Supporting Actress in Tootsie (1982).