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Jerry Stiller, legendary actor and Ben Stiller's father, dies at 92

Best known for his role on 'Seinfeld' as Frank Constanza, the veteran star was one half of the famed husband-and-wife comedy team, Stiller & Meara.

Jerry Stiller, legendary actor and Ben Stiller's father, dies at 92
Cover Image Source: Actor Jerry Stiller arrives at the Actor's Fund Annual Gala Dinner and Tribute on November 17, 2003 at Cipriani's Restaurant in New York City. (Photo by Sara Jaye/Getty Images)

The iconic actor and comedian, Jerry Stiller, has died of natural causes at the age of 92. His son, actor Ben Stiller, announced the news on Twitter in the early hours of Monday morning, writing: 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. Best known for his role on Seinfeld as Frank Constanza, the veteran star was one half of the famed husband-and-wife comedy team, Stiller & Meara.



Stiller also starred as Leah Remini's father on The King of Queens, and as Zoolander's manager in the comedy directed by his son, reports Variety. He received an Emmy nomination in 1997 for his work on Seinfield in which he played Constanza, the father of George (Jason Alexander), from 1993 to 1998. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Stiller once revealed that the character that was first played by John Randolph, came to him after series co-creator Larry David thought Randolph "looked too Protestant."



David initially instructed Stiller to play it "very meek" since his wife on the series—played by the high-pitched Estelle Harris—screamed a lot. "Well, this happened during rehearsal and I obeyed. I soon realized that I [like Randolph] would be leaving the show because nothing was happening," the actor recalled. "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!"



Born in Brooklyn on June 8, 1927, Stiller was also a talented dramatic actor with a long history on Broadway. He made his Broadway debut in 1954 in the original musical comedy The Golden Apple and went on to appear on the Rialto in a revival of The Threepenny Opera, 1957 revivals of Measure for Measure and The Taming of the Shrew, The Power and the Glory (based on the Graham Greene novel), The Ritz (1975) and Unexpected Guests (1977). He also played the starring role in the Frank Langella-directed Passione, by Albert Innaurato, in 1980.



Early in his career, he teamed up with his wife Anne Meara for a comedy bit as a stint on The Ed Sullivan Show loomed—a decision which went on to make them one of the most successful comedy duos of all time. The notable differences between the couple—Stiller, 5-foot-4 tall and Jewish, and Meara, a lanky Irish-American two inches taller than him and raised Catholic—were epitomized by their signature Hershey Horowitz/Mary Elizabeth Doyle routines. "That was Jerry’s idea, to use and plumb the depths of our backgrounds, exaggerate them and have the two differences of the Jewish and the gentile," Meara said in a 2005 interview.



Meara's turn to comedy was also unplanned as she'd aspired to become a "serious" actor and disdained comedians before she began collaborating with her husband. I was glad he got us to be a comedy team because then we weren't just waiting for the agent to call. We traveled with our own stuff," she said during the interview. Meara passed away in May 2015 at the age of 85. In addition to Ben, the couple is survived by their daughter Amy Stiller, an actress.


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