Jerry Stiller Has Died

May 11, 2020 / Posted by:

 

The world got a lot less funny today. Comedy legend Jerry Stiller has died of natural causes at the age of 92. Woof. A big ol’ “fuck you” to this May weekend for taking out icon after icon after icon after icon. Quick, somebody check on Angelyne!

Jerry was best known for his roles on Seinfeld and King of Queens, and his legendary work with his wife, Anne Meara (who died in 2015), in their comedy duo, Stiller & Meara. He is survived by his daughter, Amy Stiller, and son, Ben Stiller, who shared the sad news on Twitter.

 

Whoa. Married for 62 years? Much more impressive than my relationship record of 62 days. Their husband-and-wife team, Stiller & Meara, were one of the top comedy duos of the fifties and sixties. They appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show 36 times, which was a huge deal back then because there were like three channels. Their main bit was how dissimilar they were: Brooklyn-born Jerry was 5’4″ and Jewish, while Anne was taller and raised Catholic (before she converted to Judaism for Jerry). They broke up their act in 1970. via The Hollywood Reporter:

“I love Anne, but if I had depended on her in my professional life, I would have lost her as a wife,” Stiller told People magazine in 1977. Said Meara, “I didn’t know where the act ended and our marriage began.”

Here’s Stiller & Meara doing their mismatched shiksa-Jewish schtick (say that five times fast) on Johnny Carson:

Many of us probably know Jerry best for his Emmy-nominated role as George’s hot-tempered dad, Frank Costanza, in Seinfeld. He replaced actor John Randolph, who played the role for one episode before Larry David fired him for looking “too Protestant”. Larry told the newly hired Jerry that he should play the role “very meek”, to play off his brash, overbearing sitcom-wife, Estelle Harris. Jerry later recounted the story:

“Well, this happened during rehearsal and I obeyed. I soon realized that I [like Randolph] would be leaving the show because nothing was happening.

“For about three days, we did that same sort of thing, and I felt more and more restricted. Finally, before we were supposed to shoot, I just took it upon myself. When [a hysterical] Estelle said, ‘You’re the one who ruined [George’s] life, you were never there for him, you were a lousy role model, you weren’t a father,’ I [returned fire] out of desperation, ‘You’re the one who killed him off, you slept in bed with him, you made him sandwiches, you never treated him like a real object.’ And the place broke up!”

Good call, Jerry! Frank Costanza was an insane, angry, legend, and a character my own father quoted constantly. “Serenity Now!” Jerry was a comedian’s comedian; his line readings were wild. Here’s a video of Julia Louis Dreyfus breaking into laughter over and over while trying to film a scene with Jerry:

And my absolute favorite moment from Seinfeld… Frank Costanza’s flashback to the Korean War:

After Seinfeld, Jerry had a regular role as Leah Remini’s dad, Arthur, on The King of Queens. Leah shared her memories of Jerry on Instagram:

His other sitcom-child, Georgie-boy Jason Alexander, also shared his condolences on social media:

Jerry was also known for his work on Broadway, his roles in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Airport 1975, Hairspray (both the John Waters and musical versions), and his appearances in his son’s Zoolander films.

We lost a comedy juggernaut today, people. Rest in peace, Jerry Stiller.

 

Pic: Wenn.com

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