Jerry Stiller, comedian and Seinfeld actor, dies at 92
Jerry Stiller, the character actor who comprised half of a beloved husband-and-wife comedy team with Anne Meara and went on to have an unlikely late-career run playing barking TV curmudgeons on Seinfeld and The King of Queens, has died of natural causes, his son, actor Ben Stiller, announced Monday. He was 92.
"He was a great dad and grandfather, and the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years," Ben wrote. "He will be greatly missed. Love you Dad."
With his thick Brooklyn accent and gruff, blue-collar delivery, Gerald Isaac Stiller could only have been born and raised in New York City. And it's there that he first broke into show business, sharing the stage with Burgess Meredith in a 1951 production of The Silver Whistle and studying comedy with The Compass Players — a troupe that later evolved into the famous comedy training ground known as Second City. There, Stiller met and fell for a young Irish comedienne with a dry, lacerating wit named Anne Meara. The two married in 1954 and spent their honeymoon on the club circuit as a hilariously mismatched stand-up team. Stiller and Meara would become TV variety show staples, appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show 36 times (Meara passed away in 2015).
For most of the '70s and '80s, Stiller lent his easily exasperated, outer-borough persona to guest-star stints on small-screen sitcoms and in big-screen movies. But he finally became a household presence to a new generation of fans when he was cast on the hit '90s sitcom Seinfeld. As Frank Costanza, the short-fused, shouting father of Jason Alexander's ne'er do well George Costanza, Stiller found his biggest success. He was nominated for an Emmy in 1997. After the series ended, Stiller proved that lightning could strike twice, landing the role of another eccentric shouter with a soft chewy center, Arthur Spooner, on The King of Queens.
Aside from the menagerie of memorable roles he played and the belly laughs he provided over the years, Stiller also left behind a different kind of legacy. His son Ben Stiller and daughter Amy Stiller both followed in their parents' footsteps into successful show business careers — proof that while comedy may or may not be taught, it certainly can be inherited.