Jerry Stiller, US comedian and Seinfeld actor, dies at 92

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Jerry Stiller, who for decades teamed with wife Anne Meara in a beloved American comedy duo and then reached new heights in his senior years as the high-strung Frank Costanza on the classic sitcom Seinfeld and the basement-dwelling father-in-law on The King of Queens, died at 92, his son Ben Stiller announced on Monday.

“I’m sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes,” Ben tweeted.

“He was a great dad and grandfather and the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years. He will be greatly missed. Love you Dad,” wrote Ben, who followed in his father’s comedic footsteps and became an A-list box office star with movies like Tropic Thunder, Dodgeball and Something About Mary.

Jerry Stiller was a multitalented performer who appeared in an assortment of movies, playing Walter Matthau’s police sidekick in the thriller The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and Divine’s husband Wilbur Turnblad in John Waters’ twisted comedy Hairspray.

He also wrote an autobiography, Married to Laughter, about his 50-plus years marriage to soul mate and comedic cohort Meara, who died in 2015. And his myriad television spots included everything from Murder She Wrote to Law & Order – along with 36 appearances alongside Meara on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Stiller, although a supporting player on Seinfeld, created some of the Emmy-winning show’s most enduring moments: co-creator and model for the “bro”, a brassiere for men; a Korean War cook who inflicted food poisoning on his entire unit; an ever-simmering salesman controlling his explosive temper with the shouted mantra, “Serenity now!”

Stiller earned a 1997 Emmy nomination for his indelible Seinfeld performance. In a 2005 Esquire interview, Stiller recalled that he was out of work and not the first choice for the role of Frank Costanza, father to Jason Alexander’s neurotic George.

“My manager had retired,” he said. “I was close to 70 years old, and had nowhere to go.”

He was initially told to play the role as a milquetoast husband with an overbearing wife, Estelle, played by Estelle Harris. But the character was not working – until Stiller suggested his reincarnation as an over-the-top crank who matched his wife scream for scream.

It jump-started the septuagenarian’s career, landing him a spot playing Vince Lombardi in a Nike commercial and the role of another over-the-top dad on the long-running sitcom King of Queens.

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Flora Mitumba
Flora Mitumba
Email: info@faceofmalawi.com

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