Jerry Stiller was the first of four children born
to William Stiller and Bella (Citron) Stiller. Jerry
had a younger brother, Arnold "Arnie" Stiller, who
was two years his junior. Sister Doreen Stiller came along
three years after Jerry's birth, and his youngest
sister, Maxine Stiller was born 18 long years after
Jerry's debut in the world.
Anne Meara became his wife September 14th, 1954. Together
they would develop a series of husband-and-wife comedy
routines that would eventually propel them to national
fame. He and Anne continued to perform together for several
decades becoming one of the best known husband-and-wife
comedy teams of the '60s and '70s. They were a staple
of nightclubs and television variety and talk shows.
Jerry and Anne are the parents of actress Amy Stiller
and actor/writer/director Ben Stiller.
Though best known to today's TV audiences as George
Costanza's father Frank on the long-running Seinfeld,
or as the irascible Arthur Spooner on The King of
Queens, Stiller's credits actually stretch all the
way back to the late 1940s, when he began appearing
on stage. By the mid-1950s, he was appearing on
Broadway and television along side some true Hollywood
heavyweights. With theatre, film, and television
credits that cover more than half a century, it's
understandable how easy it was for Jerry to do a
little namedropping in his autobiography, Married
to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara,
published in 2000.
Long after the cancellation of Seinfeld, he
is remembered for helping popularize Festivus. The
"holiday for the rest of us" is a winter celebration
made famous in a 1997 episode of the popular Jerry
Seinfeld series. Stiller's character, Frank Costanza,
began celebrating Festivus to protest the out-of-control
commercialism of Christmas. The tongue-in-cheek "holiday"
actually caught on with fans, who joined in the rejection
of Christmas chaos and began erecting their own Festivus
poles. In stark contrast to the flashy, heavily-adorned
Christmas tree, the Festivus pole is a simple aluminum
pole or stick which is not intended for decorating.
Festivus beer, ice cream, a commercially-produced
Festivus pole, and even a book about the holiday,
Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us, resulted.
Jerry Stiller joined in the fun and penned the forward
to Allen Salkin's Festivus book.
New York-based Jerry Stiller and his wife, Anne Meara,
performed in numerous commercials over the years. They
once explained that the money they earned from all the
commercials, allowed them to appear in often low-paying
off-Broadway productions. They were among the first actors
to appear in Joseph Papp's free outdoor Shakespeare in
the Park. The productions began in an amphitheater on
the Lower East Side, then moved to Central Park in 1957.
The festival quickly became a New York institution,
and actually helped renew interest in Shakespeare
across the country.
As a result of his comedy routines with Anne, and his
situation comedy appearances, many tended to pigeonhole
Jerry. The truth of the matter is, he has proven himself
to be quite adept at drama and musicals as well.
February 9th, 2007, Jerry and his wife joined a very select
group of Hollywood stars to be honored with a joint star on
the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They were both on hand to unveil
their star, the 2,328th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Selected TV guest appearances:
A sampling of his impressive list of TV credits include,
Studio One, General Electric Theater, The Courtship
of Eddie's Father, The Flip Wilson Show, The Carol
Burnett Show, The Merv Griffin Show, Love, American
Style, Phyllis, Rhoda, Hart to Hart,
Simon & Simon, Archie Bunker's Place, Alice,
Amanda's, The Love Boat, Trapper John, M.D.,
The Equalizer, Tales from the Darkside, Murder, She Wrote,
L.A. Law, In the Heat of the Night, Homicide: Life on the
Street, Law & Order, Touched by an Angel,
Sex and the City, and The Good Wife. He was also a
frequent guest on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Mike Douglas Show,
and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Stiller was a series regular on The Paul Lynde Show (1972-73),
Joe and Sons (1975-76), and he portrayed a restaurant
maitre d' on the enjoyable comedy/drama Tattingers (1988-89)
and its oddly retooled half-hour spin-off, Nick and Hillary
(1989). He experienced a real resurgence late in his career
with roles on the popular, and long-running shows Seinfeld,
as Frank Costanza, father to George, played by Jason Alexander,
and beginning in 1998, he portrayed Arthur Spooner on
The King of Queens, opposite Kevin James and Leah Remini.
Selected film credits:
Motion picture credits include The Taking of Pelham
One Two Three (1974), Airport 1975 (1974),
The Ritz (1976), Seize the Day (1986),
Hot Pursuit (1987), Nadine (1987),
Hairspray (1988), Little Vegas (1990),
The Heartbreak Kid (2007) and Zoolander (2001),
which was directed by his son, Ben Stiller.
Selected stage credits:
His stage credits include Hurlyburly, directed by Mike Nichols,
Threepenny Opera, The Ritz, Passione, Hairspray
(in a role he recreated in the film adaptation), The Golden Apple,
Unexpected Guests, Three Men on a Horse, What's Wrong
with This Picture?, Guys and Dolls, The Prisoner of Second Avenue,
Luv, and The Three Sisters.