Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller have still got it

25 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Actress Anne Meara, wife of Jerry Stiller, dies.

She was best known to the 1960s television generation as the comic partner of her husband Jerry Stiller, with whom she appeared on the Ed Sullivan show 36 times. Yet two of her four Emmy nominations were for dramatic roles, one in the short-lived legal show “Kate McShane” and one for an episode of “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Stiller and Meara’s comedy often poked fun at popular culture, yet they starred for years in TV and radio ads, perhaps most famously for Blue Nun wine. Born in Brooklyn on Sept. 20, 1929, she was a red-haired, Irish-Catholic girl who struck a vivid contrast to Stiller, a Jewish guy from Manhattan’s Lower East Side who was two years older and four inches shorter.

Their commercial persona was built on good-natured, wry, droll fun — in some contrast to their stage act, where they were known to outdo each other with the hatred they felt at the moment. “If it was possible to write the word ‘hate’ on each grain of sand in the Sahara Desert,” part of their repartee went, “it wouldn’t equal one-millionth of the hate with which I’m hating you right now.” Meara converted to Judaism after she married Stiller in 1954, yet many of their best-known bits played off the notion of an Irish Catholic girl marrying a brash New York Jew. Meara also appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, including a longtime role on “All My Children” and recurring appearances on “Rhoda,” ”Alf,” ”Sex and the City” and “The King of Queens.” She shared the screen with her son in 2006’s “Night at the Museum.” Meara was twice nominated for an Emmy Award for her supporting role on “Archie Bunker’s Place,” along with two other Emmy nods, most recently in 1997 for her guest-starring role on “Homicide.” She won a Writers Guild Award for co-writing the 1983 TV movie “The Other Woman.” The family statement said: “Anne’s memory lives on in the hearts of daughter Amy, son Ben, her grandchildren, her extended family and friends, and the millions she entertained as an actress, writer and comedienne.”

Meara and Jerry Stiller were married for 61 years and performed as the comedy duo Stiller & Meara on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and other programs in the 1960s and won awards for the radio and TV commercials they made together. She can’t come because she can’t eat meat that day, she says, so why doesn’t he come over on Sunday? “My mother always has a big spread,” she says. “Roast stuffed pork, baked Virginia ham. Here’s how The New York Times covered of some of her performances over the years — as well as Tweets from fellow artists remembering her legacy. • She starred in the 1988 Richard Greenberg play, “Eastern Standard,” as a homeless woman on the beach. Meara and Stiller, who met in 1953 at an agent’s office and married a few months later, worked together in the Compass Players comedy troupe, a precursor to the Second City organization, before forming their own duo. Much of their humor was marriage-based and focused on height – Stiller was 5-foot-4 (1.62 meters), Meara was taller – and ethnicity – he was Jewish, she was of Irish heritage. “Our marriage has lasted because we have the same feelings of insecurity about being an actor.

Meara is scrupulous in refusing to conform to the sentimentalized role that her bleeding-heart benefactors wish her to play.” • She was nominated for a Tony for her role in the 1993 revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “Anna Christie,” which was directed by David Leveaux for the Roundabout Theater Company. I’ll fix you bacon and eggs.” Meara met Jerry Stiller when they were both self-described “struggling actors” and they stayed together long after they stopped struggling. She made her off-Broadway debut in 1971 in John Guare’s award-winning play “The House of Blue Leaves.” A quarter-century later, she made her off-Broadway bow as a playwright with her comedy-drama, “After-Play.” Meara was an aspiring 23-year-old actress in 1953 when she responded to a “cattle call” by a New York agent casting for summer stock.

After the agent chased her around his office, she burst into the waiting room, crying and out of breath, where she found Stiller, a fellow out-of-work actor then 25. “I took her out for coffee,” Stiller recalled decades later for The Associated Press. “She seemed to sense I had no money, so she just ordered coffee. I picked up her check for 10 cents and thought, ‘This is a girl I’d like to hang out with.'” But this was a mixed marriage — referring to their respective families, Meara said, “Nobody was thrilled when we got married, absolutely nobody.” But they accepted it, she added with perfect comic timing: “Nobody sat shiva.” Despite her theater background, Meara, with her bright eyes and cheeky smile, was a quick study as a comedian when she and Stiller performed in improv groups. Meara is one up on Borges,” wrote Alvin Klein. “She has the smarts to know just what to do with her inspiration and her musings if they are to be accessible to mainstream audiences.”

While she didn’t shy away from roles with no laughs, like episodes of “Oz” and “Law & Order,” she regularly returned to comedy — like the 2001 movie “Zoolander,” which her son directed and starred in. I took all that confusion seriously.” The couple had an old-fashioned appeal not unlike that of Burns and Allen, but Stiller and Meara were thick into the 1950s Beat Generation, an edgy, innovative arts scene based in New York’s Greenwich Village, where they had an apartment. “But WE thought that when the Village was REALLY happening was in the ’20s, the F. Over her long career, Meara personified the concept of “working actress.” She took numerous small roles in movies she liked, including “The Boys from Brazil” with Laurence Olivier and “Fame,” where she played an English teacher.

You think, during the Renaissance, people called it ‘The Renaissance’?” The husband-and-wife act was born of desperation shortly after the birth of their first child, Amy, in 1961. In one routine, which Stiller considered “a breakthrough,” they played two single people (a Jewish lad and Catholic gal) matched by a computer — and discovering what, in those days, were the sort of problematic differences they had surmounted in real life: Then quickly the pair realize they have plenty in common: They live on the same New York City block, and both love to dance. In 2010, the pair reunited on-screen for “Stiller & Meara: A Show About Everything,” a chatty Web series produced by their son and shot in their longtime home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Their off-the-cuff banter was informed by their lifetime partnership: Mearer: “A person who is very bright, and figured a lot of people want to share the mundane, miserable moments of their lives with other people: ‘I’m your friend, and I just came back from going to the john.

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