Ben Stiller gets emotional over father Jerry's high praise, says he could never be as funny as his dad
'Everything I could never do, Ben could do,' Jerry Stiller said in an old note
Ben Stiller recently got emotionally when he got to know about the words of admiration his late father, comedy great Jerry Stiller, had said about him. Jerry died earlier this month at the age of 92.
During an interview with The New Yorker, Isaac Chotiner of the magazine read an old quote of Jerry to Ben that said: “In later years, Stiller would often put his parents in his films. Jerry Stiller says that, when he appeared in 'Zoolander', 'Ben was acting with me, and also directing me—"Do it this way, Dad. No, this way." He wanted perfection, and I was getting a little huffy. I didn’t even want to be in the movie.”' Meara interjected, 'Jerry was afraid people would think he was riding on his son’s coattails.' 'Yeah, something like that,' he admitted. 'Ben was ahead of me, in a lot of ways. Everything I could never do, Ben could do.'"
When the interviewer asked the 54-year-old actor what he made of the following quote, Ben reacted emotionally. He said: “I never read that before. I never heard that. I think he would write these things down. Or he would say these things, but he never said it to me — something like that. I was coming from my own point of view of trying to figure out who I was in relation to him. What I’ve always felt over the years is I wanted to do my thing, and my dad and mom did their thing—and were so good at it. And it’s, like, my dad is so funny. Like, I’ve never, ever thought I was funny like my dad. Or as funny as my dad. I’ve never really felt a competition because I would lose, hands down.”
Continuing, Ben said, “I think, in that quote, he was saying, 'I love my son'. It wasn’t, like, 'I’m in competition with my son.' And I really feel that. I’m sure that he felt at times, like, 'Oh, Ben’s doing a movie'. And he wasn’t. I think that’s a natural thing when you have a career. But it never was manifest in our relationship."
“And that’s what I think is the beauty of his career, and his life—that he had this incredibly long career that ended in a great way. And nobody has to be reminded of what he did. Like you said, his work is going to live on. To me, that’s the beauty of what he did,” he added.
Later, in the conversation, Ben also revealed that Jerry never criticized his work, but his mother did. “He didn’t. My mother was the one who would be a little more critical. I think he would probably keep it to himself more. And he’s the guy who would write letters to critics. Let me put it that way,” the ‘Night at the Museum’ star said.
At the end of the interview, Ben shared his favorite onscreen memory of his father. “One of my favorite things that he did is 'The Taking of Pelham One Two Three'. He was just so good in that film. And he’s not doing a lot of comedic shticks or anything, but he’s very funny, very New York, and very real. And, in the very last scene in the movie, with Martin Balsam, I just love him. He’s in his transit-cop outfit, with his cap tilted off to the side, and a cigarette in his mouth. And he never smoked, ever, in life. But I love that image of him, and I love what he is in that movie. And kind of his alternate film career that he might have had, too. He was really good,” he concluded.