Remembering Jerry Stiller: Seinfeld’s Multi-Generational Funnyman

Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller

Jerry Stiller, one half of the Stiller and Meara comedy act, father of Ben Stiller, and scene stealer from Seinfeld and The King of Queens died yesterday from natural causes at the age of 92.

Born in Brooklyn in 1927, he first rose to prominence in the 1960s with wife Anne Meara (Ben was their child together) through their Stiller and Meara comedy act. After making a name for themselves on The Ed Sullivan Show, they continued to work together and separate throughout their lives.

Stiller’s notable film work ranges from 1970s favorites The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and The Ritz through to later on-screen work with his son, including the comedy hit Zoolander.

Arguably it is Stiller’s work on television for which he is most fondly remembered. As the acerbic Frank Costanza on Seinfeld, he established himself as the funniest — and loudest — father in TV history. (He also helped create the Festivus holiday from the show, what would December be without the annual Airing of the Grievances?) After that series left the airwaves in 1998, he began portraying Arthur Spooner, an equally lovable mistanhrope, for the 1998-2007 run of The King of Queens.

After the passing of Anne Meara in 2015 (the pair were married for almost 60 years), Stiller continued to work steadily in film and television until his death.

Whether playing harried or ornery, Stiller always brought a charming humanity to the curmudgeonly characters he portrayed, roles that sharply contrasted his warm real-life persona. He brought the world so much laughter, the sounds of which will continue to reverberate for ages to come. Happy Festivus Frank, wherever you are.

  • John

    It took his obituaries to remind me of his and Anne Meara’s routines on The Ed Sullivan Show. Each had a serious streak that could turn funny in the blink of an eye…and back to serious just as fast. That’s a gift.