Jerry Stiller, a comedy tour de force with his wife Anna Meara in the 1960s and later a scene-stealer on Seinfeld, has passed away at the age of 92. Stiller and Meara were fixtures in nightclubs, talk shows, and ads in the 60s. Per The New York Times, “At a time when it was rare for men and women of different religions to date, let alone marry, Stiller and Meara broke new comic ground with their routines about the rocky but loving relationship of Hershey Horowitz and Mary Elizabeth Doyle, characters loosely based on themselves.”
But if you’re in my generation, you probably know Stiller best as George Costanza’s volatile and explosive father, Frank. Frank was originally intended to be a henpecked, quiet person, but when they recast the role with Stiller, it changed the complexion of the character completely, and added a completely new dynamic to the show every time he came on to make George’s life miserable in some new way. While a lesser actor would have just made Frank Costanza loud, Stiller new how to play the levels of the character so that he would explode at just the right moment and when to keep the tension in his voice. Check out this incredible comparison to see what Stiller brought to one of his signature roles:
Jerry Stiller took a role that was otherwise unforgettable and turned it into one of the most memorable supporting characters in recent TV history. Frank Costanza was originally written as a pushover, who Estelle would henpeck, but Stiller suggested Frank’s impotent rage. pic.twitter.com/4CaJGvK1mw
— Mike Sampson (@mjsamps) May 11, 2020
Even after Seinfeld, Stiller would go on to keep working on The King of Queens, doing commercials, and appearing as Maury Ballstein in his son Ben’s Zoolander movies. Comedians hope to have a career as rich and varied as Jerry Stiller, and the world is a less funny place without him in it. Our deepest condolences go out to Mr. Stiller’s family and friends.