NEW YORK – Jerry Stiller, who for decades teamed with wife Anne Meara in a beloved comedy duo 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 Monday.
“I'm sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes,” his son said in a tweet.
“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.
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 year marriage to Meara, who died in 2015. And his myriad television spots included “Murder She Wrote” and “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!”
Jason Alexander, his former TV son on “Seinfeld,” said Stiller “was perhaps the kindest man I ever had the honor to work beside. He made me laugh when I was a child and every day I was with him.” Added Billy Eichner, “Seeing Jerry Stiller on screen instantly made you happy.”
Stiller earned an 1997 Emmy nomination for his indelible “Seinfeld” performance.
Stiller earned a drama degree at Syracuse University after serving in World War II, then headed to New York City to launch his career. There was a brief involvement in Shakespearean theater, including a $55 a week job with Jack Klugman in “Coriolanus.”