The comedian and Seinfeld star died on May 11 at the age of 92.

By Rosy Cordero
May 19, 2020 at 12:28 PM EDT
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As Ben Stiller mourns the death of his father, actor and comedian Jerry Stiller, he's comforted by years of wonderful memories and a huge respect for the legacy he leaves behind for future generations.

The actor and director spoke to The New Yorker about what it was like growing up as the son of Seinfeld star Stiller and his equally funny mother, Anne Meara, who died in 2015. To tell the elder Stiller's story it's impossible not to mention Meara, whose personal and professional lives were intertwined for more than six decades.

"Growing up with them, we were always around their process of working together because they worked together at home," Ben says in the interview. "And so I don’t ever remember a moment of thinking, Oh, they’re funny. I remember watching them on stage and seeing them perform and get laughs and do their act."

He adds, "But, honestly, when I think about it, it’s really when I got a little bit older, when I was a teenager, that I was able to really appreciate their humor. And then, really, as I got much older and was able to have a perspective, I was able to really see outside of the lens of just being their kid."

Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Stiller and Meara were known for their work as a comedic duo, but Ben explains it was more his father's choice than his mother's, who preferred dramatic work. He shares insight into what it was like being their son as they perfected their craft.

"They really both had separate attitudes toward the work, and they both took it very seriously. So it wasn’t really them cracking jokes around the house," he says. "My memory is of my mother feeling the stress of it. My dad really liked to perform and do comedy more than my mom. It came to her very easily, but it was always work for her to put herself out there like that."

Ben also shared insight into the time he and his sister, comedian Amy Stiller, were able to share with their dad before his death on May 11 at the age of 92.

"My sister and I were able to be with him. And, just due to the fact that he didn’t have a coronavirus-related illness, and he had been ailing for a while, we were able to be with him, which I’m very, very grateful for."

He adds, "He was just slowing down a lot, and he was dealing with a lot of issues. And so the last week or two were tougher for him. But he went peacefully, and he had a sense of humor, for sure, until the end. I hesitate to call it a sense of humor. He was just funny, and so he was always himself. He was almost 93, and I think his body was kind of at that point where it was time."

Read Stiller's full interview at The New Yorker.

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