Veteran actor Jerry Stiller died, his son Ben Stiller announced on Twitter early Monday morning. He was 92 years old. The comedian’s cause of death was “natural causes”.
“I’m sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes,” Ben Stiller wrote. “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.”
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. pic.twitter.com/KyoNsJIBz5
— Ben Stiller (@RedHourBen) May 11, 2020
Jerry Stiller was best known by most as his character Frank Costanza on the hit show Seinfeld. His next huge hit came the following decade when he played Arthur Spooner on the sitcom The King of Queens.
Though comedian might be what many people associate with Stiller, he was also involved in theater, the New York Times reported. In 1975, he appeared in Terrence McNally’s The Ritz and in 1985 he had a role in David Rabe’s Hurlyburly. He also appeared in The Threepenny Opera.
When it came to the screen, he did much more than just make people laugh. He played a detective in 1974’s The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three and appeared in the 1988 version of Hairspray.
Jerry and Ben Stiller also appeared in several movies together, including The Heartbreak Kid, Zoolander, Heavyweights, Shoeshine and Hot Pursuit.
In 2016, Jerry appeared in the Zoolander sequel, where he revived his role as Maury Ballstein, the agent to Ben Stiller’s male model, Derek Zoolander. “I’ve never thought of stopping,” Jerry Stiller told Daily News in 2012. “The only time you ever stop working is when they don’t call you.”
Jerry Stiller Was Inspired by Comedian Eddie Cantor
Stiller previously said he was inspired by comedian Eddie Cantor. He would listen to Cantor on the radio and related to him because he was Jewish and from the Lower East Side, the same neighborhood in New York City where Stiller grew up. “He worked his way up from being a singing waiter. He had such joy, such energy,” he told ClevelandSeniors.com in 2010.
Before he became an A-list actor, the star had various side jobs around the city. He sold ice cream, mixed cement, washed windows and sold orange juice in Times Square.
“I never thought I would have to do anything else but act. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t making money. … I was acting,” the comedian explained to ClevelandSeniors.com about his early days. “We weren’t making any money because nobody was in those days. But it didn’t matter, you were working.”
Stiller Was Married to His Wife For More Than 60 Years
Stiller met his wife, late comedian and actress Anne Meara, in an agent’s office. She had been crying and Stiller offered to buy her a cup of coffee. “I bought her a cup of coffee. That’s all I could afford,” Stiller said, according to the New York Daily News. “Then I said, ‘Can I pick up the check?’ She said, ‘Forget the check, pick up some silverware, stick it in your pocket and let’s get the hell out of here.'”
They got married in 1954 and rose to fame in the ’60s, when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show dozens of times. In their act they would joke about their differences. Stiller was short and Jewish and Meara was Irish American and Catholic, though she converted to Judaism in 1961, the Daily News noted. Meara died in 2015. She and Stiller had been married for more than 60 years.
The couple bonded over their love of acting. “Our marriage has lasted because we have the same feelings of insecurity about being an actor. We needed stability,” Stiller told the Daily News in 2012.
“I don’t miss sex, if you want to know the truth,” he added. “The sex in my life was always being on stage and performing. Anne couldn’t care less. We’ve been lucky enough to find that kind of joy being in front of an audience.”
To save their marriage, the couple broke up their professional act in the 1970s. “I love Anne, but if I had depended on her in my professional life,” Stiller told People magazine in 1977, “I would have lost her as a wife. We felt like two guys.” Meara added: “I didn’t know where the act ended and our marriage began.”
Fans Mourn Stiller on Social Media
The tributes poured out for Stiller on social media sites like Twitter, where his name became a top-trending topic. Stars like Ricky Gervais, Hank Azaria, Lin-Manuel Miranda and many more took to the mini-blog to remember the legendary comedian.
Comedian Gervais replied to Ben Stiller’s tweet, “So sorry for your loss.”
“Sending you love, Ben,” Hamilton creator Miranda tweeted. “What a giant. So grateful for him, and Anne, and you.”
“He was a lovely man – always so kind to me. Condolences Ben,” tweeted Azaria, who worked with Ben Stiller on films like Dodgeball and Night at the Museum.
General Hospital actor Parry Shen shared a story about working with Stiller on an episode of The King of Queens in 1998.
“After the table read, I was canned & your father talked to the producers & got me my job back,” Shen tweeted. “When I thanked him, he said, ‘Hey, it’s not Shakespeare!’ A class act & a legend. What a gift to the world. Deepest condolences.”
Game of Thrones actress Nathalie Emmanuel wrote, “Thank you for the laughs.”
“Such a funny man(!) but even lovelier than he was funny,” Westworld actor Jeffrey Wright shared. “Condolences to your family and you, Ben.”