Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara: How true love turned an imperfect pairing into a 61-year fairytale marriage
They came from completely different backgrounds but they made their marriage work over 61 years
Jerry Stiller's son Ben wrote a heartfelt tribute after the actor-comedian passed away on May 11 and touched upon his parents' fairytale romance.
In his tweet, Ben wrote that his father was “ the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years”, and that’s very true. The pair of Jerry and Anne Meara was one of a kind. From being partners in real life to spreading laughter together on screen, they have done everything together despite being so much different from each other.
Meara was two inches taller than Stiller and this was not the only difference between the pair. They also belonged from two different ethnic backgrounds and their way of tackling life was also different.
Stiller was born in Brooklyn to parents of Polish and Western Ukrainian heritage while Meara grew up on Long Island in a Roman Catholic family. She was an easygoing person while Stiller's nature was intense. "Anne's very quicksilver. She moves rapidly and makes a choice. Jerry will stop and think. But the result is the same: they are committed to getting it good. Neither of them ever phones it in,” actress Valerie Harper once said of her friends.
Jerry Stiller is best known for his role as George Costanzas’ father Frank on 'Seinfield', but he shot to fame way before the 1989 show started. He became a prominent name in Hollywood after playing the fun other-half of his wife in their 1986 sitcom ‘Stiller & Meara’.
The show was very much based on their real-life relationship. Much like their characters on the show, Stiller and Meara had nothing in common except their love for each other.
According to reports, the duo met in the spring of 1953 in New York when an angry Meara stormed out of a theatrical agent's office in tears. In his 2000 memoir, ‘Married to Laughter’, Stiller mentioned about the incident and how he took the upset, “angel-faced” Meara to a coffee shop, where she bemoaned the lecherous men of New York.
At that time, Meara used to work as a stage actress. Soon after their meeting, they started liking each other and tied the knot in the fall of 1953. Though the couple was madly in love, they also realized after their marriage that they had strikingly different personalities.
However, despite all the differences, they successfully persisted with love and harmony and were couple goals before Meara passed away in 2015 after multiple strokes.
The 'imperfect' team
Meara was never into comedy but Stiller’s love made her dip her feet in the new genre. It was reportedly Stiller’s idea that they become a comedy team, and the pair went on to become a national sensation with their performance on the 'Ed Sullivan Show' in 1963.
People loved their chemistry so much that they were invited again and again to the show for the next 15 years. Stiller even admitted that it was show’s host Ed Suvillan, who brought the best out of them which they were not even aware of. “Ed Sullivan brought us up to the level that we never knew we could get to—him standing there on the right side of the wings laughing, tears coming out of his eyes.”
Proof of their love
In 1961, the pair became parents of their daughter, Amy. After her birth, they bought a seven-and-a-half room co-op on the Upper West Side. In 1965, they welcomed their second child, Ben, who is an actor, film producer, director, and writer.
However, after the birth of Ben, Stiller and Meara decided to a break from their on-screen partnership in 1970 despite having brilliant chemistry. As per reports, Meara did not like the idea of leaving small children at home for work.
She returned back to the small screen in 1974 when she appeared on the TV show ‘Rhoda’. She also did a 1979 sitcom ‘Archie Bunker's Place’. Although at the time, the couple did not work together, like their fans, they missed their on-screen partnership. Fans were delighted to witness their several on-screen reunions for ‘Archie Bunker's Place’ and ‘King of Queens’.
Jerry and Anne’s married life was as blissful as it could be. They never parted ways until Anne’s death came in between their love life in 2015.