NEW YORK — Jerry Stiller, who played two of American television’s most cantankerous fathers on the sitcoms Seinfeld and The King of Queens, has died aged 92, his son Ben Stiller said on Twitter on Monday.
“I’m sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes,” wrote Ben, a Hollywood comedian who appeared with his father in Zoolander and other movies.
“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,” he added.
Jerry Stiller was part of a 1960s comedy team with wife Anne Meara. But he was in his mid-60s when he got what would become his signature acting role — Frank Costanza, father of ne’er-do-well George Costanza (played by Jason Alexander) on Seinfeld, a tense, bombastic man always on the verge of apoplexy.
In 1993, Stiller had thought his entertainment career was nearing an end when he got a phone call from Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, about joining the cast led by comedian Jerry Seinfeld.
The show, one of the most highly regarded in US TV history, was in its fourth season at the time but Stiller said he had never watched a minute of it and had to ask, “Who’s Seinfeld?”
Stiller was in only 26 of the 172 Seinfeld episodes but each appearance was memorable, whether he was screaming “serenity now!” in a tense situation, trying on a bra for men, or explaining the odd rituals of Festivus, the Dec. 23 holiday he established as an alternative to Christmas.
Jerry Seinfeld on Monday paid tribute by posting a photo of himself holding The Last Two People in the World, a 1967 comedy album from Stiller and his wife.
Seinfeld ended its nine-year run in 1998 and that same year Stiller moved into another sitcom dad role on The King of Queens. As Arthur Spooner, he played another blowhard oddball — although not quite as eruptive as Frank Costanza — living in the basement of the home of his daughter (played by Leah Remini) and her husband (Kevin James) through the show’s nine seasons. — Reuters