On Seinfeld, Jerry Stiller and Estelle Harris couldn’t be more convincing as the constantly squabbling parents of George Costanza (Jason Alexander). In real life, both are happily married (he to longtime comic partner Anne Meara, she to salesman Sy Harris). And both are proud of their offspring: Harris, who won’t reveal her age, has three grown children and two grandkids, and Stiller, 65, is father to actor-director Ben Stiller (Reality Bites) and actress Amy Stiller. EW sat down with the duo in New York City-Stiller lives in Manhattan, Harris on Long Island-and let them riff on what it means to be a Costanza.
Harris: We’re not supposed to be Jewish. I once asked (Seinfeld executive producer) Larry David, ”What are we, Jewish?” He said, ”What do you care?”
Stiller: I think we’re a Jewish family in the Witness Protection Program under the name Costanza. I don’t even know what my occupation is on this show.
EH: You go on the road. Because when I was in the hospital in the masturbation episode, I say, ”It’s a good thing that your father’s in Boston.” What I can’t figure out is why you came back.
JS: There’s a lotta love in the family.
EH: People call us dysfunctional, but I don’t see it. There’s been no molestation
JS: Not yet!
EH: We yell at each other a lot, but we still talk. We have a son who comes and goes, and we accept it. We’re not too proud of him yet, but we have hope.
JS: What it comes down to is, we had this boy late in life. When you have kids late in life, you’ll never catch up to them.
EH: We didn’t have him late in life.
JS: He’s at least half our age.
EH: That makes us 70! C’mon, Jerry, I’m nowhere near that!
JS: You gave your son everything. For the rest of his life he was spoiled.
EH: If you can spoil a person with love, then I spoiled him.