|Was||Actor Television actor Film actor Voice actor Screenwriter|
|From||United States of America|
|Type||Film, TV, Stage & Radio|
|Birth||8 June 1927, New York City, USA|
|Death||11 May 2020, Brooklyn, USA (aged 92 years)|
Gerald Isaac Stiller (June 8, 1927 – May 11, 2020) was an American comedian, actor, and author. He spent many years as part of the comedy duo Stiller and Meara along with his wife, Anne Meara, whom he was married to for over 60 years, until her death in 2015.
Stiller saw a late-career resurgence starting in 1993, playing George Costanza's father Frank on the sitcom Seinfeld, a part which would earn Stiller an Emmy nomination. The same year Seinfeld went off the air, Stiller began his role as the eccentric Arthur Spooner on the CBS comedy series The King of Queens, another role which would garner Stiller widespread acclaim.
Stiller was the father of actor Ben Stiller, and the father and son would appear together in films such as Zoolander, Heavyweights, Hot Pursuit, The Heartbreak Kid, and Zoolander 2. In his later career, Stiller became known for playing grumpy and eccentric characters who were nevertheless beloved.
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 (southeast 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.
Late in his career, Stiller earned the part of the short-tempered Frank Costanza, father of George Costanza, on the sitcom Seinfeld, a role which Stiller played from 1993 to 1998. For his portrayal of Frank, Stiller gained widespread critical and popular acclaim, including being nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 1997 and winning an American Comedy Award for Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series in 1998.
The King of Queens
After Seinfeld ended, Stiller had planned on retiring. 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 agreed, and played the role of Arthur Spooner, the father of Carrie Heffernan, 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 2005 book Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us (ISBN 0-446-69674-9) by Allen Salkin. The book discussed Festivus, the fictional holiday promulgated by Stiller's Seinfeld character Frank Costanza.
Stiller also authored a memoir titled Married to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara, which was published by Simon & Schuster (ISBN 0-684-86903-9).
Stiller was married to Anne Meara for over 60 years: 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 Stiller announced via Twitter that Jerry had died at age 92 of natural causes.