Jerry Stiller

Gerald Isaac Stiller (born June 8, 1927) is an American comedian and actor. He spent many years in the comedy team Stiller and Meara with his wife, Anne Meara. He later played Frank Costanza on the NBC sitcom Seinfeld and Arthur Spooner on the CBS comedy series The King of Queens.[1] Stiller and Meara are the parents of actor Ben Stiller, with whom Stiller co-starred in the films Zoolander, Heavyweights, Hot Pursuit, The Heartbreak Kid and Zoolander 2. Stiller is known for his angry, yelling acting style.

Jerry Stiller
Stiller and Meara in 1965
Gerald Isaac Stiller

(1927-06-08) June 8, 1927
Alma materSyracuse University (B.A.)
OccupationComedian, actor
Years active1953–2016
Anne Meara
(m. 1954; died 2015)
Children2; including Ben Stiller

Early life

The eldest of four children,[2] Stiller was born at Unity Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, to Bella (née Citron) and William Stiller, a bus driver.[3] His family is Jewish. His paternal grandparents immigrated from Galicia (modern southern Poland and Western Ukraine), and his mother was born in Poland.[4] He lived in the Williamsburg and East New York neighborhoods before his family moved to the Lower East Side,[5] where he attended Seward Park High School.[6]

Upon his return from service in World War II,[7] Stiller attended Syracuse University, earning a bachelor's degree in Speech and Drama in 1950. In the 1953 Phoenix Theater production of Coriolanus (produced by John Houseman) Stiller, along with Gene Saks and Jack Klugman formed (as told by Houseman in the 1980 memoir Front and Center) "the best trio of Shakespearian clowns that I have ever seen on any stage".[8]

Also in 1953, Stiller met actor-comedian Anne Meara, and they married in 1954. Until Stiller suggested it, Meara had never thought of doing comedy. "Jerry started us being a comedy team," she said. "He always thought I would be a great comedy partner."[9] They joined the Chicago improvisational company The Compass Players (which later became The Second City), and after leaving, began performing together. In 1961, they were performing in nightclubs in New York, and by the following year were considered a "national phenomenon", said the New York Times.[9]

Stiller and Meara

The comedy team Stiller and Meara, composed of Stiller and wife, Anne Meara, was successful in the 1960s and 1970s, with numerous appearances on television variety programs, mainly on The Ed Sullivan Show.[10] Their career declined as variety series gradually disappeared, but they subsequently forged a career in radio commercials, notably the campaign for Blue Nun wine. They starred in their own syndicated five-minute sketch comedy show, Take Five with Stiller and Meara (1977–1978).[11]

From 1979 to 1982, Stiller and Meara hosted HBO Sneak Previews, a half-hour show produced monthly on which they described the movies and programs to be featured in the coming month.[12] They also did some comedy sketches between show discussions. The duo's own 1986 TV sitcom, The Stiller and Meara Show, in which Stiller played the deputy mayor of New York City and Meara portrayed his wife, a TV commercial actress, was not successful.



Stiller played the short-tempered Frank Costanza, the father of George Costanza in the sitcom Seinfeld from 1993 to 1998. He was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 1997, and won the American Comedy Award for Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series for his portrayal of Frank Costanza.

The King of Queens

After Seinfeld's run ended, Stiller had planned on retiring, but Kevin James asked him to join the cast of The King of Queens. James, who played the leading role of Doug Heffernan, had told Stiller that he needed him in order to have a successful show. Stiller obliged, and played the role of Arthur Spooner, the father of Carrie Heffernan, in the sitcom from 1998 until 2007. Stiller said this role tested his acting ability more than any others have and that, before being a part of The King of Queens, he only saw himself as a "decent actor".

Other appearances

Stiller played himself in filmed skits, opening and closing Canadian rock band Rush's 30th Anniversary Tour concerts in 2004. These appearances are seen on the band's DVD R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour, released in 2005. Stiller later appeared in cameos in later in-concert films for the band's 2007-2008 Snakes & Arrows Tour. Stiller appeared on Dick Clark's $10,000 Pyramid show in the 1970s, and footage of the appearance was edited into an episode of The King of Queens to assist the storyline about his character being a contestant on the show, but that after losing, he was bitter about the experience as he never received his parting gift, a lifetime supply of "Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat".[13] He also made several appearances on the game show Tattletales with his wife Anne.

In the late 1990s, Stiller appeared in a series of Nike television commercials as the ghost of deceased Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi. Stiller has appeared in various motion pictures, most notably Zoolander (2001) and Secret of the Andes (1999). On February 9, 2007, Stiller and Meara were honored with a joint star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On October 28, 2010, the couple appeared on an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stiller voiced the announcer on the children's educational show Crashbox. Starting in October 2010, Stiller and Meara began starring in a Yahoo web series, Stiller & Meara from Red Hour Digital, in which they discussed current topics. Each episode was about two minutes long.[14] As of 2012, Stiller has been a spokesman for Xfinity.

As author

Stiller wrote the foreword to the book Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us (ISBN 0-446-69674-9) by Allen Salkin, released on October 26, 2005. Stiller's memoir, Married to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara, was published by Simon & Schuster © 2000; ISBN 0-684-86903-9.

Personal life

Stiller was married to Anne Meara from 1954 until her death on May 23, 2015. The two met in an agent's office. Anne was upset about an interaction with the casting agent, so Jerry took her out for coffee (all he could afford) and they were together ever since. Their son is actor-comedian Ben Stiller (born 1965) and their daughter is actress Amy Stiller (born 1961). He has two grandchildren through Ben.



Year Film Role Notes
1970 Lovers and Other Strangers Jim Uncredited
1974 The Taking of Pelham One Two Three Lt. Rico Patrone
1974 Airport 1975 Sam
1976 The Ritz Carmine Vespucci
1977 Nasty Habits P.R. Priest
1980 Those Lips, Those Eyes Mr. Shoemaker
1986 Seize the Day Dr. Tamkin
1987 Hot Pursuit Victor Honeywell
1987 Nadine Raymond Escobar
1988 Hairspray Wilbur Turnblad
1989 That's Adequate Sid Lane
1990 Little Vegas Sam
1992 Freefall Emily's Father
1992 Highway to Hell The Desk Cop
1993 The Pickle Phil Hirsch
1995 Heavyweights Harvey Bushkin
1997 Camp Stories Schlomo
1997 Stag Ted
1997 The Deli Petey Cheesecake
1999 A Fish in the Bathtub Sam Kaplan
1999 The Suburbans Speedo Silverburg
1999 Secret of the Andes Dr. Golfisch
2000 The Independent Monty Fineman
2000 My 5 Wives Don Giovani
2000 Chump Change The Colonel
2001 Zoolander Maury Ballstein
2001 On the Line Nathan
2002 Serving Sara Milton the Cop
2004 Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy Man in Bar Uncredited
2004 Teacher's Pet Pretty Boy Voice
2004 The Lion King 1½ Uncle Max (voice) Direct-to-DVD
2005 R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour Himself
2007 Hairspray Mr. Pinky
2007 The Heartbreak Kid Doc
2008 Snakes & Arrows Live Heidi
2011 Swinging with the Finkels Mr. Winters
2012 Foodfight! General X Voice
2014 Planes: Fire & Rescue Harvey Voice
2016 Zoolander 2 Maury Ballstein


Year show Role Notes
1956–1957 Studio One in Hollywood Sergeant Joe Capriotti / Hugh 2 episodes
1957 The Big Story Tyler Episode: "The Hoax"
1959 Armstrong Circle Theatre Pfc. Elwood Johnson Episode: "Thunder Over Berlin"
1962 The Defenders Sergeant Wysenski Episode: "The Empty Chute"
1962 General Electric Theater Harold Episode: "Acres and Pains"
1964 Brenner Chris Zelco Episode: "The Plain Truth"
1964–1965 Linus the Lionhearted 3 episodes
1969 That's Life Himself Episode: "Our First Fight"
1971–1972 The Courtship of Eddie's Father Mr. Landon / Paul Sterling 2 episodes
1971–1973 Love, American Style Leonard Ferguson / Harry 2 episodes
1972 The Carol Burnett Show Himself Episode: "#6.8"
1972–1973 The Paul Lynde Show Barney Dickerson 4 episodes
1975–1976 Joe and Sons Gus Duzik 14 episodes
1976 Phyllis Burt Hillman Episode: "Phyllis and the Jumper"
1976 Rhoda Lloyd Zimmer Episode: "A Touch of Classy"
1979 Time Express Edward Chernoff Episode: "Garbage Man/Doctor's Wife"
1979–1983 The Love Boat Harlan Weatherly / Tony Vitelli / Bud Hanrahan 3 episodes
1980–1982 Archie Bunker's Place Carmine 2 episodes
1981 Madame X Burt Orland Television film
1981 Hart to Hart Myron Finkle Episode: "Murder Takes a Bow"
1981 Private Benjamin Sgt. Muldoon Episode: "So Long, Sergeant Ross"
1982 Simon & Simon Harold Traxler Episode: "The Uncivil Servant"
1982 Alice Gordy Episode: "Do You Take This Waitress"
1983 Reading Rainbow Dinosaur Comic Episode: "Digging Up Dinosaurs"
1983 Amanda's Sal Episode: "You Were Meant for Me"
1983 The Other Woman Mel Binns Television film
1984 Trapper John, M.D. Artie Merrow Episode: "Where There's a Will"
1985 The Equalizer Brahms Episode: "Pilot"
1985 Tales from the Darkside Luther Mandrake Episode: "The Devil's Advocate"
1986 Screen Two Marty de Reske Episode: "The McGuffin"
1987 Saturday Night Live Stu Episode: "Charlton Heston/Wynton Marsalis"
1988–1989 Tattingers Sid Wilbur 14 episodes
1989 Murder, She Wrote SFPD Lt. Birnbaum Episode: "When The Fat Lady Sings"
1990 Monsters Victor Episode: "One Wolf's Family"
1990 Sweet 15 Waterman Television film
1991 American Playhouse Sam / Seymour Shapir 2 episodes
1991 Women & Men 2 Irving Television film
1992–1996 Law & Order Michael Tobis / Sam Pokras 2 episodes
1993–1998 Seinfeld Frank Costanza 26 episodes
1993 L.A. Law Nat Pincus Episode: "Rhyme and Punishment"
1994 In the Heat of the Night Rabbi Feldman Episode: "The Rabbi"
1995 Homicide: Life on the Street McGonnigal Episode: "In Search of Crimes Past"
1996 Deadly Games Phil Cullen Episode: "Dr. Kramer"
1997 Subway Stories Old Man Television film
1998 Touched by an Angel Maury Salt Episode: "Cry and You Cry Alone"
1998 The Larry Sanders Show Himself Episode: "I Buried Sid"
1998 Hercules Eagle Episode: "Hercules and the Promethus Affair"
1998–2007 The King of Queens Arthur Spooner 195 episodes
2000–2002 Teacher's Pet Pretty Boy 11 episodes
2003 Odd Job Jack Jim McDonald Episode: "A Candidacy of Dunces"
2003 Sex and the City Mr. Brady Episode: "One"
2009 Wonder Pets! Old White Mouse 2 episodes
2009 Mercy Joe Thalberg Episode: "The Last Thing I Said Was"
2010 Ice Dreams Skipper Television film
2010–2011 Fish Hooks Principal Stickler 21 episodes
2011 The Good Wife Judge Felix Afterman Episode: "Silver Bullet"
2014 How Murray Saved Christmas Murray Weiner (voice) Television film


  1. Dennis Bjorklund. Seinfeld Reference: The Complete Encyclopedia with Biographies, Character Profiles & Episode Summaries. Praetorian Publishing. pp. 36–. ISBN 978-0-9679852-4-4. Best remembered for his five-year stint on "Seinfeld" in a recurring regular role, Jerry Stiller ... is a veteran actor with a long history of stage performances. His notoriety first came when he revamped the role of George's father, but he ...
  2. "Jerry Stiller profile at". Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  3. Jerry Stiller profile,; accessed August 4, 2014.
  4. Jerry Stiller (8 August 2000). Married to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara. Simon & Schuster. pp. 19–. ISBN 978-0-7432-1146-8.
  5. Jerry Stiller's Own Private East Side
  6. "Famous Alumni". Retrieved 2013-11-03.
  7. Houseman, John (1979). Front & Center. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 439. ISBN 0-671-24328-4.
  8. "Anne Meara, Comedian and Actress, Dies at 85". The New York Times. May 24, 2015. Archived from the original on May 24, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2015.
  9. Jeffrey Ross (September 15, 2009). I Only Roast the Ones I Love: Busting Balls Without Burning Bridges. Gallery Books. pp. 163–. ISBN 978-1-4391-6420-4.
  10. Terrace, Vincent (1985). Encyclopedia of Television Series, Pilots and Specials, Volume 2. VNR AG. p. 404. ISBN 0918432618. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  11. Jerry Stiller profile,; accessed May 24, 2013.
  12. "CBS PRESS EXPRESS WHEN CARRIE PUTS ON A COUPLE OF EXTRA POUNDS, DOUG". CBS Broadcasting, Inc. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  13. "Watch Stiller and Meara online". Retrieved 2013-05-24.
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