Stiller, Jerry 1927-
STILLER, Jerry 1927-
PERSONAL: Born Gerard Stiller, June 8, 1927, in Brooklyn, NY; son of William (a bus driver) and Bella Stiller; married Anne Meara (an actress), September 14, 1954; children: Amy (an actress), Benjamin (an actor and director). Education: Syracuse University, B.A., 1950. Religion: Jewish.
CAREER: Actor and comedian; with wife, Anne Meara, formed comedy duo Stiller and Meara. Actor in television series, including (as Barney Dickerson) The Paul Lynde Show, American Broadcasting Companies (ABC), 1972-73; (as Gus Duzik) Joe and Sons, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 1975-76; Take Five with Stiller and Meara, syndicated, 1977; (as cohost) HBO Sneak Preview, Home Box Office (HBO), 1979-82; (as Carmine) Archie Bunker's Place, CBS, 1980-82; (as Jerry Bender) The Stiller and Meara Show, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1986; (as Sid Wilbur) Tattinger's (also known as Nick and Hillary), NBC, 1988-9; (as voice) Good and Evil, ABC, 1991; (as Frank Costanza) Seinfeld, NBC, 1993-98; (as Arthur Spooner) The King of Queens, CBS, 1998—; and (as voice of Pretty Boy) Teacher's Pet (animated; also known as Disney's Teacher's Pet), ABC, 2000. Actor in television movies, including (as Burt Orland) Madame X, NBC, 1981; (as Mel Binns) The Other Woman, CBS, 1983; (as Marty de Rezke) The McGuffın, British Broadcasting Company (BBC), 1985; (as Slicko McDee) The Hustler of Money, 1988; (as old man) "The 5:24," Subway Stories: Tales from the Underground, HBO, 1997; (uncredited; in archive footage; as Arthur Spooner) The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, and (as Old Jingle) Legend of the Lost Tribe, 2002. Actor in television pilots, including (as Harold) Acres and Pains, CBS, 1965; (as Brahms) The Equalizer, CBS, 1985; and (as Jerry Bender) The Stiller and Meara Show, CBS, 1986. Appeared in episodes of television series, including The Ed Sullivan Show (also known as Toast of the Town), CBS, c. 1960-64; "Acres and Pains," G.E. Theater, CBS, 1962; "Occupancy, August First," Car 54, Where Are You?, NBC, 1962; "The Plain Truth," Brenner, CBS, 1964; That's Life, ABC, 1969; Love, American Style, ABC, 1969, 1973; "A Memory of Two Mondays," N.E.T. Playhouse, Public Broadcasting System (PBS), 1971; (as Paul) "Thy Neighbor Loves Thee," The Courtship of Eddie's Father, ABC, 1972; Phyllis, CBS, 1976; (as Lloyd Zimmer) "A Touch of Classy," Rhoda, CBS, 1976; "The Garbage Man," Time Express, CBS, 1979; (as Bud Hanrahan) "Super Mom/I'll See You Again/April's Return," The Love Boat, ABC, 1979; (as Myron Finkle) "Murder Takes a Bow," Hart to Hart, ABC, 1981; "Orphans, Waifs, and Wards," CBS Library, CBS, 1981; (as Tony Vitelli) "Love, Honor, and Obey/Gladys and Agnes/Radioactive Isaac," The Love Boat, ABC, 1981; Private Benjamin, CBS, 1981; (as Harold Traxler) "The Uncivil Servant," Simon and Simon, CBS, 1982; "The Squealer," No Soap, Radio, ABC, 1982; (as Gordy) "Do You Take This Waitress?," Alice, CBS, 1982; (as voice of dinosaur comic) "Digging up Dinosaurs," Reading Rainbow, 1983; "We the Jury," The Love Boat, ABC, 1983; "Where There's a Will," Trapper John, M.D., CBS, 1984; (as Mandrake) "Devil's Advocate," Tales from the Darkside, syndicated, 1985; (as Dr. Tamkin) "Seize the Day," Great Performances, PBS, 1987; (as himself) "Jerry Seinfeld: Master of His Domain," Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 1987; (as Lieutenant Birnbaum) "When the Fat Lady Sings," Murder, She Wrote, CBS, 1989; (as Milt Waterman) "Sweet 15," WonderWorks, PBS, 1990; (as Sam Rosenbloom) "The Hollow Boy," American Playhouse, PBS, 1991; (as Seymour Shapiro) "The Sunset Gang," American Playhouse, PBS, 1991; (as Michael Tobis) "The Fertile Fields," Law & Order, NBC, 1992; (as Nat Pincus) "Rhyme and Punishment," L.A. Law, 1993; (as Rabbi Feldman) "The Rabbi," In the Heat of the Night, 1994; (as McGonnigal) "In Search of Crimes Past," Homicide: Life on the Street, NBC, 1995; (as Phil Cullen) "Dr. Kramer," Deadly Games, UPN, 1996; (as Sam Pokras) "Deadbeat," Law & Order, NBC, 1996; (as Maury Salt) "Cry and You Cry Alone," Touched by an Angel, CBS, 1998; (as himself) "I Buried Sid," The Larry Sanders Show, HBO, 1998; (as voice of Eagle) "Prometheus Affair," Hercules (animated; also known as Disney's Hercules), ABC and syndicated, 1998; (as himself) "Ben Stiller," Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 2001; (as himself) "I Love the '70s," 2003; (as hot dog vendor) "Distance, Time and Speed: Hot Dog Heaven," and (as Gus) "Statistics: The Lucky Batting Glove," The Eddie Files; (as Mr. Landon) "We Love Annie," The Courtship of Eddie's Father, ABC; and in an episode of Joe and Mabel. Appeared in television specials, including 55th Annual King Orange Jamboree Parade, NBC, 1988; (as pizzeria owner) Colin Quinn Back in Brooklyn (also known as Colin Back to Brooklyn), syndicated, 1989; (as Irving) Women and Men 2: In Love There Are No Rules, 1991; Tracey Takes on New York, HBO, 1993; Tom Arnold: The Naked Truth 3, HBO, 1993; Going, Going, Almost Gone! Animals in Danger, 1994; and (as himself) CBS at 75, CBS, 2003. Appeared (as voice) in miniseries Baseball, 1994. Appeared (as Eddie Condon) in radio program Riverwalk, Live from the Landing, 1999; also appeared on Selected Shorts, public radio. With Meara, host of video So You Want to Be an Actor?, Home Video, 1993. Actor in films, including (uncredited; as Jim, Carol's father) Lovers and Other Strangers, 1970; (as Lieutenant Rico Patrone) The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three, United Artists, 1974; (as Sam) Airport 1975, Universal, 1974; (as Carmine Vespucci) The Ritz, Warner Bros., 1976; (as P. R. Priest) Nasty Habits (also known as The Abbess), Brut, 1976; (as Mr. Shoemaker) Those Lips, Those Eyes, United Artists, 1980; In Our Hands, 1984; (as Raymond Escobar) Nadine, TriStar, 1987; (as Victor Honeywell) Hot Pursuit, Paramount, 1987; Shoeshine, 1987; (as Wilbur Turnblad) Hairspray, New Line Cinema, 1988; (as Sid Lane) That's Adequate, 1989; (uncredited) Beyond "JFK": The Question of Conspiracy, 1992; (as the desk cop) Highway to Hell, Hemdale Releasing, 1992; (as Sam) Little Vegas, IRS Releasing, 1992; (as Phil Hirsch) The Pickle, Columbia, 1993; (as Harvey Bushkin) Heavyweights, Buena Vista, 1995; (as Professor Plumpingham) Die Story von Monty Spinnerratz (also known as A Rat's Tale), Legacy Releasing, 1997; (as Schlomo) Camp Stories, Artistic License, 1997; (as Ted) Stag, New City Releasing, 1997; (as Petey) The Deli, Golden Monkey Pictures, 1997; (as Speedo Silverberg) The Suburbans, TriStar, 1999; (as Sam) A Fish in the Bathtub, Northern Arts Entertainment, 1999; (as Morty Fineman) The Independent, Arrow Releasing, 2000; (as Don Giovanni) My Five Wives, Artisan Entertainment, 2000; (as himself) Amy Stiller's Breast, 2000; (as Maury Ballstein) Zoolander, Paramount, 2001; (as Nathan) On the Line, Miramax, 2001; (as Milton) Serving Sara, Paramount, 2002; (as voice of Pretty Boy) Teacher's Pet: The Movie, Disney, 2003; (as the colonel) Chump Change, 2004; and (as Timon's Uncle Max) The Lion King 1 1/2 (video; also known as Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata), Disney, 2004. Actor in stage productions, including (as Billy Barnes) Showboat, Chicago, IL, 1950; (as Mayor Juniper) The Golden Apple, Alvin Theatre, New York, NY, 1954; Boubouroche, New York, 1971; (as Carmine Vespucci) The Ritz, Longacre Theatre, New York, 1975-76; (as Harry Mullin) Unexpected Guests, Little Theatre, New York, 1977; (as Berto) Passione, Morosco Theatre, New York, 1980; (as Artie) Hurlyburly, Promenade Theatre, then Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York, 1984-85; (as Dogberry) Much Ado about Nothing, New York Shakespeare Festival, 1988; (as Charlie) Three Men on a Horse, Lyceum Theatre, New York, 1993; Beau Jest, 1994; (as Sid) What's Wrong with This Picture?, Brooks Atkinson Theatre, New York, 1994; After-Play, off-Broadway, 1995; and (as Chebutykin) Three Sisters, Criterion Theatre, New York, 1997; also appeared in Coriolanus, The Power and the Glory, Measure for Measure, Taming of the Shrew, Carefree Tree, Diary of a Scoundrel, Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Prairie/Shawl. Performed in various summer stock companies, 1951-53, and at Henry Street Settlement and Cherry Lane Theatre, New York; Erie Playhouse, PA; Memphis Arena Theatre, TN; Phoenix, NY; Shakespeare Festival Theatre, Stratford, CT; and with the New York Shakespeare Festival. Actor in the touring production Peter Pan, U.S. cities, 1951. Military service: Served in U.S. Army during World War II.
AWARDS, HONORS: Ellis Island Medal of Honor; Emmy nomination for best supporting actor, for Seinfeld.
(With wife, Anne Meara) Laugh When You Like (comedy album), Atlantic, 1972.
(With others) The Stiller and Meara Show, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1986.
Married to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara (autobiography), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
Also narrator of the audiobook version of Married to Laughter, Random House (New York, NY), 2000.
SIDELIGHTS: Jerry Stiller and his long-time wife Anne Meara have been entertaining Americans for over half a century, first through acting on stage, then doing a stand-up comedy routine together, and later in separate paths, with Stiller continuing to act and Meara turning more to playwriting. Stiller relates their lives, private and on stage, in his memoirs, Married to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara.
Stiller grew up in a Brooklyn family that was hit hard by the Great Depression. As a teenager he served in the army during the waning days of World War II, then returned to the United States and got a degree in theater. He acted in various stage productions around the country for several years, during which time he met and months later married Meara. Meara, a tall, red-headed Irish Catholic from an affluent Long Island family, was a most unlikely match for Stiller, but the two put their contrasting looks (Stiller is short, only 5 feet 6 inches tall), backgrounds, and personalities to good use in their long-running comedy routine. At first they performed in clubs and coffeehouses, but the duo rose to national prominence when they became frequent guests on The Ed Sullivan Show, one of the most popular variety shows of the 1950s and 1960s. The two gained further fame for their commercials for Blue Nun wines; these spots, written by Meara, were some of the first funny advertisements to be successful in selling their product.
Stiller's biggest roles came at an age when most actors look toward retirement. He brought to life Frank Costanza, the perennially angry but always hilarious father of George Costanza, one of the four stars of the hit sitcom Seinfeld, in the mid-1990s. When Seinfeld ceased production in 1998, Stiller reprised the loud-mouthed father role on another sitcom, The King of Queens. Stiller speaks little of these roles in Married to Laughter, instead focusing on his childhood and early years in the business.
Surprisingly to some reviewers who know him only for his comedy, Stiller wrote his autobiography in a voice more tender and reflective than comedic. This is especially true when he is speaking of Meara or of his mentor, Syracuse University professor Sawyer Falk. The book is a "heartfelt, sometimes painful, mostly sweet memoir," Ilene Cooper wrote in Booklist; it is "the real stuff about his real life," another critic explained in Publishers Weekly. "I always found that I could attract people by telling stories about what went on in my life," Stiller told a People interviewer. "I'd tell these stories and people would say, 'If this were a book, I'd buy it!'." Stiller mulled over the idea of writing the stories down for fifteen years, until the cancellation of Seinfeld finally gave him the time and motivation to do so.
"Stiller . . . sees a world that rewards hard work and patience," Michael Lazan wrote in a review of Married to Laughter for Back Stage. "It is an old-fashioned vision, bereft of cynicism and irony," that "works to create an uplifting affect." Los Angeles Times contributor Tony Peyser concluded that "Married to Laughter is a testament to love and perseverance and a reminder that behind every successful Hollywood story is a lot of rejection, family woes and tough luck."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Back Stage, November 17, 2000, Michael Lazan, review of Married to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara, p. 44.
Booklist, August, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Married to Laughter, p. 2096; March 1, 2001, Mary McCay, review of Married to Laughter (audiobook), p. 1296.
Boston Herald, March 3, 1999, Paul Sherman, interview with Stiller and Meara, p. 41; June 3, 2002, Stephen Schaefer, interview with Stiller, p. 35.
Buffalo News, November 5, 2000, Kathleen Rizzo Young, review of Married to Laughter, p. F6.
Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia), September 2, 1999, Vicki Englund, interview with Stiller, p. 2.
Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), December 30, 1997, Keith Marder, interview with Stiller, p. L8.
Esquire, June, 1999, Cal Fussman, interview with Stiller, p. 112.
Library Journal, August, 2000, Rosellen Brewer, review of Married to Laughter, p. 108; February 15, 2001, Nann Blaine Hilyard, review of Married to Laughter (audiobook), p. 219.
Los Angeles Times, September 21, 2000, Tony Peyser, review of Married to Laughter, p. E3.
Palm Beach Post, April 1, 2002, Hap Erstein, interview with Stiller, p. E1.
People, October 16, 2000, interview with Stiller, p. 113.
Publishers Weekly, July 24, 2000, review of Married to Laughter, p. 77; November 6, 2000, review of Married to Laughter (audiobook), p. 50.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 31, 1997, Ellen Futterman, interview with Stiller, p. 1E.
Seattle Times, December 15, 1998, Frazier Moore, interview with Stiller, p. F3.
Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), August 6, 2002, "La-La Land's Nice, but Stiller Still Loves N.Y. People," p. 36.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), February 1, 2002, Colin Covert, "After Five Decades, Jerry Stiller Hits Stride," p. E11.
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (May 24, 2004), "Jerry Stiller."
Jerry Stiller Home Page,http://www.arlo.net/jerry (September 4, 2003).*