Comedian Jerry Stiller Found Dead at Age 92

Jerry Stiller, Amy Stiller, Ben Stiller and Anne Meara (from left to right), back in 2007
Source: The New York Times

Jerry Stiller, Amy Stiller, Ben Stiller and Anne Meara (from left to right), back in 2007 Source: The New York Times

Kelli Mann, Writer

At the age of 92, a veteran of the comedy community, Jerry Stiller was found dead in his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on Monday morning. Actor Ben Stiller, his son, announced his death on Twitter, specifying that it was natural causes. 

Throughout his life, Stiller’s accomplishments within the entertainment industry were considerable. After meeting his wife, Anne Meara, in a New York casting call in 1953, Stiller and Meara paired up to create an iconic comedy duo. Between 1963 and 1970, the duo appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show a total of 16 times. In the late 1960s, the Stiller and Meara duo also made multiple appearances on, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, What’s my Line? and The Carol Burnett Show. By the late 1970s, Take Five With Stiller & Meara, was the new and innovative way for the couple to perform and showcase their snappy bits on late-night TV, in short five minute episodes. For many years, the Stiller and Meara team was familiar in nightclubs, on television variety and talk shows, as well as in radio and television commercials, most memorably, Blue Nun wine and Amalgamated Bank.

Although his importance in the duo was memorable, Stiller also built upon many accomplishments as an individual. He appeared on Broadway in Terrrence McNally’s “The Ritz” in 1975, and David Rabe’s drama “Hurlyburly” in 1984. Outside of Broadway, he was a police detective in “The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three” in 1974 and Divine’s husband in John Waters’s “Hairspray” in 1988. Stiller also played Shakespearean clowns for Joseph Papp in “The Threepenny Opera” in central park. 

But, Stiller was best known as a comedian in his role as Frank Costanza, father of George Costanza, on “Seinfeld” and Arthur Spooner, Carrie Heffernan’s father, on “The King of Queens”. Stiller only appeared in fewer than 30 of the 180 episodes of “Seinfeld”, but was nominated for an Emmy in 1997 for being such an essential role to the show’s overall appeal to viewers. 

Jason Alexander, who played George Costanza in “Seinfeld,” spoke out upon the death of Stiller in a Tweet on Monday. “Such sad news that my beloved friend, Jerry Stiller, has passed. He was perhaps the kindest man I ever had the honor to work beside. He made me laugh when I was a child and every day I was with him. A great actor, a great man, a lovely friend,” said Alexander. Many stars alongside Alexander are sharing tributes to Stiller, expressing the footprint he left on American entertainment.