NEW YORK – Jerry Stiller, who for decades worked with his wife Anne Meara on a beloved comedy duo and reached new heights as an adult as the nervous Frank Costanza in the comedy series “Seinfeld” and the father-in-law living in the basement in ” The King of Queens, ”passed away, announced his son Ben Stiller on Monday. He was 92 years old.
“I am sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes,” his son said in a tweet.
“He was a great father and grandfather and the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years. She will be greatly missed. I love you dad,” wrote Ben, who followed in his father’s comical footsteps and became a box office star. with movies like “Tropic Thunder”, “Dodgeball” and “Something About Mary”.
I’m sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes. He was a great dad and grandfather, and the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years. He will be greatly missed. Love you Dad. pic.twitter.com/KyoNsJIBz5
– Ben Stiller (@RedHourBen) May 11, 2020
Jerry Stiller was a multi-talented artist who appeared in a variety of films, playing Walter Matthau’s sidekick in the thriller “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” and Divine’s husband Wilbur Turnblad in the comedy by John Waters “Hairspray”.
He also wrote an autobiography, “Married to Laughter,” about his 50-plus-year marriage to his soulmate and comedy partner Meara, who died in 2015. And his countless television jobs included everything from “Murder She Wrote” to “Law & Order” – along with 36 appearances alongside Meara on “The Ed Sullivan Show”.
Stiller, although a supporting actor in “Seinfeld,” created some of the longest-running moments of the Emmy-winning show: co-creator and model for “brother,” a men’s bra; a Korean War cook who inflicted food poisoning on his entire unit; an always simmering salesman who controls his explosive temper with the mantra shouted: “Serenity now!”
Stiller earned an Emmy nomination in 1997 for his indelible performance “Seinfeld”. In an Esquire interview in 2005, Stiller recalled that he was out of a job and was not the first choice for the role of Frank Costanza, father of Jason Alexander’s neurotic George.
“My manager had retired,” he said. “I was about 70 years old and had nowhere to go.”
Initially she was told to play the role of a milquetoast husband with a dominant wife, Estelle, played by Estelle Harris. But the character wasn’t working, until Stiller suggested his reincarnation as an exaggerated crank that matched his wife scream for scream.
This fueled the 70’s career, earning him a place to play Vince Lombardi in a Nike commercial and the role of another over-the-top father in the long comedy “King of Queens.”
While known as a crazy father on the small screen, Stiller and his wife Meara raised two children at their lifelong home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side: their daughter Amy, who became an actress, and their son Ben. , who would perhaps be the most famous Stiller as a writer, director, and actor.
He and Ben acted together on “Shoeshine,” which was nominated for a 1988 Academy Award in the short subject category.
Stiller was considerably more silent and thoughtful in person than in character, though just as fun. The son of a bus driver and a housewife, Stiller grew up in the depression era in Brooklyn. His inspiration to enter the world of entertainment came at the age of 8, when his father took him to see the Marx Brothers in the comedy classic “A Night at the Opera”.
Years later, Stiller met Groucho Marx and thanked him.
Stiller earned a drama degree from Syracuse University after serving in World War II, and then headed to New York City to launch his career. There was a brief participation in Shakespeare’s theater, including a $ 55 a week job with Jack Klugman on “Coriolanus”.
But his life and career took off after meeting Meara in the spring of 1953. They married that fall.
The seemingly incompatible couple, he was a short, stout Jewish boy from Brooklyn, she a tall Irish Catholic from the Long Island suburbs, also shared an immediate chemistry on stage. They soon appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and at nightclubs across the country.
The couple also wrote and performed radio commercials, most memorably a series of bits for a little-known wine called Blue Nun. The duo’s ads increased sales by 500%. Ben Stiller recalled trips with his sister to California when his parents were heading west to make television appearances.
The couple appeared as a team in dozens of film, theater, and television productions. One of them was “After-Play”, a 1995 off-Broadway show written by Meara.
Stiller joined “Seinfeld” in 1993, and went on to make “King of Queens” when the starring series Jerry Seinfeld went off the air in 1998. He also appeared in the Ben Stiller movie “Zoolander,” a parody of the world of modeling. , in 2001.
Larry McShane, a former staff member of the Associated Press, was the lead writer for this English obituary.