When Jerry Stiller told his father he wanted to become an actor, his father offered an alternate plan. He said, "Why don't you be a stagehand — that's like being on the stage — at least you'll be working every night," Stiller told Fresh Air in 1993.
Stiller did not heed his father's advice and went on to have a long career in show business. He performed comedy on stage and screen, and, in later years, made a name for himself playing George Costanza's hot-headed father on Seinfeld. Stiller died of natural causes, his son Ben Stiller tweeted Monday.
Stiller was born in Brooklyn in 1927. After serving in World War II, he teamed up with his wife, Anne Meara, to form the Stiller and Meara comedy duo — a practical move motivated by love. "We wanted to keep the marriage together," he joked — she was tall and Catholic, he was short and Jewish — and until they partnered up, "we never got jobs together," Stiller told the Archive of American Television.
Stiller and Meara enjoyed success as a duo for many years but eventually decided to pursue careers on their own. Looking back in 1993, Stiller told Fresh Air he and Meara were young parents juggling a show business schedule — and trying "to figure out a way to do everything."
"Here were a husband and wife working together and suddenly you're being asked to play Las Vegas," he recalled. "What do you do, pick up the two children and the nanny and go to Vegas and get ready to do the nightclub act?"