Jerry Stiller, perhaps best known for playing Frank Costanza on Seinfeld, actually has a career going back decades prior. And it continues to this day, though the actor is admittedly less active than he was in his youth. Let’s look back on some of the more memorable characters Jerry Stiller has given us.
Stiller and Meara
Jerry Stiller was born on June 8, 1927, the oldest of four children to a Jewish family living in Brooklyn, New York City. He spent most of his childhood living in the Lowest East Side, and later attended Syracuse University, earning a bachelor’s degree in Speech and Drama in 1950. His first notable performance was in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, alongside fellow comedic heavyweights Gene Saks and Jack Klugman.
The next year, working with the Second City improvisational troupe, he met Anne Meara, and married her in 1954. The two formed the comedy duo Stiller and Meara, and performed frequently on TV variety shows. The Ed Sullivan Show loved their comedy, and kept bringing them back, helping build their fame over the next decade. In 1961 the couple gave birth to a daughter, Amy, and four years later a son, Ben Stiller. Both of them would later become actors.
As variety hours declined in popularity, the couple sometimes struggled to find work on television, but found a new home in radio commercials. For a brief time, they had a sketch comedy show that was broadcast in Washington, DC, after Saturday Night Live, in 1977. Through the 80s, Stiller and Meara had trouble finding a proper home in entertainment, and their careers drifted apart. For a while, Anne Meara was actually more well-known than Jerry Stiller.
In 1986, the couple briefly had their own TV sitcom, The Stiller and Meara Show, where Jerry Stiller played the deputy mayor of New York and his wife was an actress for TV commercials. The show was not successful, in part because their sense of humor seemed a bit dated for the market.
Seinfeld & King of Queens
Previous stumbles in his career didn’t keep Jerry Stiller from continuing to advance his career. In 1993, Jerry Stiller joined the cast of Seinfeld. Originally his character was cast as John Randolph, but after one episode, the role of Frank Costanza was given to Stiller. Frank Costanza, the father of George Costanza (played by Jason Alexander,) became a frequent character in the show from the fourth season on.
Stiller’s portrayal of the character earned him a nomination for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in 1997, and secured him the American Comedy Award for the same. After Seinfeld ended, Jerry Stiller had made plans to retire. However, Kevin James approached Stiller, asking him to join the cast of his new show, The King of Queens. Stiller acquiesced, and took on the role of Arthur Spooner.
Arthur Spooner lived with his daughter Carrie (Leah Remini) and Doug Heffernan (Kevin James). His character was the same sort of eccentric that he’d played for Seinfeld, and helped give a familiar tone to The King of Queens. He shouted, made absurd claims like Charlie Brown being based on him, and in episodes where he was a main character, often tried to make money using absurd scams. Stiller’s character also seemed to have some form of OCD, forbidding a variety of objects from being brought into the household, such as soft cheese, red pens, and minature candy bars.
Jerry Stiller’s role on the show lasted from 1998 until 2007 when The King of Queens ended. In interviews afterward, Stiller was thankful that he worked with the show, saying that it pushed him to further his acting skills beyond just comedy. During the show’s tenure, he notably appeared in Zoolander, the 2001 comedy that starred his son Ben Stiller. Almost immediately after The King of Queens ended, Stiller and Meara were given a joint star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Since the end of The King of Queens, Jerry Stiller has unofficially retired. He’s had a few appearances in other shows and movies, but not much. He notably voice-acted for the principle in the first season of Disney’s animated comedy Fish Hooks, and in filled the title role in NBC’s animated Christmas special How Murray Saved Christmas.
What is Jerry Stiller Doing Now in 2018
Earlier this year Jerry Stiller re-appeared on the big screen with his son for Zoolander 2, which premiered on February 12. He reprised his role of fashion agent Maury Ballstein, much to the thrill of fans of the franchise.
This will likely be the star’s last big appearance, since he’s now 88. His wife Anne Meara passed away last May, at the age of 85.
Jerry also starred in the made for TV movie Simpler Times. The last film he and his wife Anne Meara were seen in together.
Aging stinks. I guess he colored his hair for KoQ? I’ve only seen him on Seinfeld and KoQ so he’s always been “old” to me.