Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

R.I.P. legendary comedian Jerry Stiller

Illustration for article titled R.I.P. legendary comedian Jerry Stiller
Photo: William B. Plowman (Getty Images)

Jerry Stiller, the comedic mainstay and actor who was known for multiple waves of success, has died of natural causes. Son Ben Stiller confirmed the death with a tweeted statement: “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.” He was 92 years old.


Born in Brooklyn, Jerry Stiller was a classically trained actor who studied at Syracuse University after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. In 1953, as his career began with bit parts and some notable work with Shakespearean classics, he met Anna Maera in the lobby of a talent agency. Their near-instantaneous spark led to a romantic relationship and they were married a year later. Sensing that Maera would excel in comedy, Stiller entered a professional partnership with his wife. Stiller & Maera would become an inimitable success thanks to multiple appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show—36, to be exact. Much of their comedy touched on the then-taboo subject of dating outside of one’s religion (Maera was Irish-Catholic, Stiller was Jewish), which allowed them to break comedic ground with their acts featuring embattled couple Hershey Horowitz and Mary Elizabeth Doyle.

After more than a decade of appearances and commercials, the duo split professionally (though they remained happily married until Maera’s death in 2015). Stiller found renewed popularity with his 30-episode stint on Seinfeld as Frank Costanza. Stiller mentioned that the original vision for George Costanza’s father was someone who was mild-mannered. After an improvised shouting match with his onscreen wife, played by Estelle Getty, the character was rewritten as the cantankerous, short-tempered delight that fans know now. Though he only appeared in 30 episodes, Stiller was a clear standout and a necessary factor in Seinfeld’s enduring legacy. His work on the show earned him an Emmy nomination and inspired the fan-fueled holiday, Festivus.

After Seinfeld ended, Stiller gained a starring role in CBS’s long-standing Kevin James sitcom The King of Queens, which ran from 1998 to 2007. He acted in a range of films, however his bold delivery and scene-stealing energy was a consistent the factor in his varied performances. He was also an author, having released Married to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara. He is survived by his daughter Amy, his son Ben, and his two grandchildren.