Jerry Stiller was born Gerald Isaac (Yitzchak) Stiller in Brooklyn, New York on June 8, 1927. He was the oldest of four children born to Polish Jewish immigrants, Bella and William. Stiller attended high school in the Lower East Side before serving in the Army towards the end of WWII. He then attended Syracuse University on the G.I. Bill, graduating with a degree in speech and drama in 1950.
In 1953, Stiller met Anne Meara. They were married for over 60 years, from 1954 until Meara’s death in 2015. They met in an agent’s office. Meara was upset about an interaction with the casting agent, so Stiller took her out for coffee, and they remained together ever since. Meara was Irish Catholic and converted to Judaism in 1961. Stiller said that being married to Meara made him feel more Jewish.
The couple had two children, Amy and Ben. Stiller said that he had always wanted to visit Israel, but his acting obligations had always gotten in the way. When Ben was 17, he convinced his father to make the trip together. Stiller was ecstatic about the experience, saying that it “filled me with personal strength and a connection with my identity.”
In 1993, Stiller received a career-changing phone call from Larry David about joining the cast of Seinfeld. He played Frank Costanza, the father of George Costanza, for seven seasons. His performance earned him an Emmy nomination.
Stiller passed away on May 11, 2020, at the age of 92. He was a beloved actor and comedian who will be remembered for his many memorable roles.
May his memory be a blessing.