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Jerry Stiller, '60s comedy legend who found renewed fame on 'Seinfeld,' dies at 92

Jerry Stiller, '60s comedy legend who found renewed fame on 'Seinfeld,' dies at 92


"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," the tweet read.
Actor Jerry Stiller died from natural causes on Monday, but his life and legacy will continue be honored every Dec. 23.

That scores of fans actually celebrate the fictional holiday of Festivus on that date is proof of how big a legacy the 92-year-old comedy veteran left on a younger generation through his role as Frank Costanza, the creator of the "Festival for the rest of us" on the popular sitcom, “Seinfeld.”

Stiller wasn't cast as his signature character until his late 60s, decades after he had found success as half of the comedy duo, Stiller and Meara, with his real-life wife, Anne Meara.
Coupled with memorable cameos in his son Ben's "Zoolander" movies and a recurring part on "King of Queens," the elder Stiller enjoyed a career resurgence that would be the envy of his comedy contemporaries from the '60s.

Ben Stiller paid tribute to his father on Twitter on Monday.
"Milton Berle was the highest-rated show back in the 1950s, they called him 'Mr. Television,' he was responsible for some of the highest ratings of the time," Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, told NBC News. "But he appeared in variety shows and variety shows don’t rerun, so their fame stretches only as long as the memories of the people who watched them the first time around.

"And that’s where Jerry Stiller, because of 'Seinfeld,' has guaranteed his place in enduring popular culture history. Those episodes are going to be running forever."
Born on June 8, 1927, in Brooklyn, New York, there was little to indicate the son of a bus driver would eventually rise to national recognition. After serving in the military in Europe in World War II, he graduated with a degree in speech and drama from Syracuse University in 1950 and embarked on an acting career.
Three years later, Stiller caught his big break — in the office of a casting director. That's where he met Meara, then a struggling actress looking for work and apparently a new set of cutlery for her apartment.

"From there we went down to the cafeteria… I bought her a cup of coffee because that’s all I could afford, really," Stiller recounted to MSNBC in 2012. "I said, 'Should I pick up the check?'

"She said, 'Forget about the check, pick up some silverware, stick it in your pocket and let’s get the hell out of here.'"

“Of course he did it. He wanted to sleep with me,” added Meara, ever the scene partner, in that "Morning Joe" interview.

The obvious chemistry between the tall Irish-Catholic Meara and the short, Jewish Stiller translated first to the stage — they joined the predecessor to Chicago's Second City comedy troupe in the mid 1950s and eventually became a popular nightclub act in New York City — and later on screen. Stiller and Meara became regulars on "The Ed Sullivan Show," appearing more than 30 times from 1963 to 1971, according to IMDB.

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