Jerry Stiller facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Stiller and Meara in 1965
Gerald Isaac Stiller
June 8, 1927
New York City, U.S.
|Died||May 10, 2020 (aged 92)|
|Alma mater||Syracuse University (B.A.)|
(m. 1954; died 2015)
|Children||2; including Ben Stiller|
Gerald Isaac Stiller (June 8, 1927 - May 10, 2020) was an American comedian and actor. He spent many years in the comedy team Stiller and Meara with his wife, Anne Meara. He later played George Costanzas' father Frank, on the NBC sitcom Seinfeld and Arthur Spooner on the CBS comedy series The King of Queens. Stiller and Meara are the parents of actor Ben Stiller, with whom Stiller co-starred in the films Zoolander, Heavyweights, Hot Pursuit, The Heartbreak Kid and Zoolander 2. Stiller frequently plays frantic and angry yet contemplative characters.
The eldest of four children, Stiller was born at Unity Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, to Bella (née Citron) and William Stiller, a bus driver. His family is Jewish. His paternal grandparents immigrated from Galicia (modern southern Poland and Western Ukraine), and his mother was born in Poland. He lived in the Williamsburg and East New York neighborhoods before his family moved to the Lower East Side, where he attended Seward Park High School.
Upon his return from service in the U.S. Army during World War II, Stiller attended Syracuse University, earning a bachelor's degree in Speech and Drama in 1950. In the 1953 Phoenix Theater production of Coriolanus (produced by John Houseman) Stiller, along with Gene Saks and Jack Klugman formed (as told by Houseman in the 1980 memoir Front and Center) "the best trio of Shakespearian clowns that I have ever seen on any stage".
Also in 1953, Stiller met actor-comedian Anne Meara, and they married in 1954. Until Stiller suggested it, Meara had never thought of doing comedy. "Jerry started us being a comedy team," she said. "He always thought I would be a great comedy partner." They joined the Chicago improvisational company The Compass Players (which later became The Second City), and after leaving, began performing together. In 1961, they were performing in nightclubs in New York, and by the following year were considered a "national phenomenon", said the New York Times.
Stiller and Meara
The comedy team Stiller and Meara, composed of Stiller and wife, Anne Meara, was successful in the 1960s and 1970s, with numerous appearances on television variety programs, mainly on The Ed Sullivan Show. Their career declined as variety series gradually disappeared, but they subsequently forged a career in radio commercials, notably the campaign for Blue Nun wine. They starred in their own syndicated five-minute sketch comedy show, Take Five with Stiller and Meara (1977–1978).
From 1979 to 1982, Stiller and Meara hosted HBO Sneak Previews, a half-hour show produced monthly on which they described the movies and programs to be featured in the coming month. They also did some comedy sketches between show discussions. The duo's own 1986 TV sitcom, The Stiller and Meara Show, in which Stiller played the deputy mayor of New York City and Meara portrayed his wife, a TV commercial actress, was not successful.
Stiller played the short-tempered Frank Costanza, the father of George Costanza in the sitcom Seinfeld from 1993 to 1998. He was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 1997, and won the American Comedy Award for Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series for his portrayal of Frank Costanza.
The King of Queens
After Seinfeld's run ended, Stiller had planned on retiring, but Kevin James asked him to join the cast of The King of Queens. James, who played the leading role of Doug Heffernan, had told Stiller that he needed him in order to have a successful show. Stiller obliged, and played the role of Arthur Spooner, the father of Carrie Heffernan, in the sitcom from 1998 until 2007. Stiller said this role tested his acting ability more than any others have and that, before being a part of The King of Queens, he only saw himself as a "decent actor".
Stiller played himself in filmed skits, opening and closing Canadian rock band Rush's 30th Anniversary Tour concerts in 2004. These appearances are seen on the band's DVD R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour, released in 2005. Stiller later appeared in cameos in later in-concert films for the band's 2007-2008 Snakes & Arrows Tour. Stiller appeared on Dick Clark's $10,000 Pyramid show in the 1970s, and footage of the appearance was edited into an episode of The King of Queens to assist the storyline about his character being a contestant on the show, but that after losing, he was bitter about the experience as he never received his parting gift, a lifetime supply of "Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat". He also made several appearances on the game show Tattletales with his wife Anne.
In the late 1990s, Stiller appeared in a series of Nike television commercials as the ghost of deceased Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi. Stiller has appeared in various motion pictures, most notably Zoolander (2001) and Secret of the Andes (1999). On February 9, 2007, Stiller and Meara were honored with a joint star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On October 28, 2010, the couple appeared on an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stiller voiced the announcer on the children's educational show Crashbox. Starting in October 2010, Stiller and Meara began starring in a Yahoo web series, Stiller & Meara from Red Hour Digital, in which they discussed current topics. Each episode was about two minutes long. As of 2012, Stiller has been a spokesman for Xfinity.
Stiller wrote the foreword to the book Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us by Allen Salkin, released on October 26, 2005. Stiller's memoir, Married to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara, was published by Simon & Schuster.
Stiller was married to Anne Meara from 1954 until her death on May 23, 2015. The two met in an agent's office. Anne was upset about an interaction with the casting agent, so Jerry took her out for coffee—all he could afford—and they were together ever since. Their son is actor-comedian Ben Stiller (born 1965) and their daughter is actress Amy Stiller (born 1961). He has two grandchildren through Ben.
On May 11 2020, Jerry's son, Ben, announced via his Twitter page that his father had passed away at 92 years old "from natural causes".
Jerry Stiller Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.