Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara's marriage has an inspiring tale behind it. It stood the test of time and proved you can work with the person you love.
Before Jerry Stiller, 90, started acting on the hit show Seinfeld as George Constanza's father the actor was known for being part of the comedy duo Stiller and Meara with his wife Anne Meara. The couple based the characters in their comedy routines on their own relationship.
The fictional couple had "virtually nothing in common except their love for each other" much like Stiller and Meara. At the height of their popularity in the '60s and '70s, they performed on the Ed Sullivan Shows a total of 36 times.
They eventually decided to focus on their individual careers. However, Stiller and Meara still appeared together on sitcoms such as Rhoda, Archie Bunker's Place, and King of Queens.
They were married for 61-years until Meara's death in 2015. Together they not only produced countless hours of comedic entertainment but also two children, actress, and comedian Amy Stiller, and actor-writer-director Ben Stiller.
Stiller was born in Brooklyn. His parents were from Polish and Western Ukrainian heritage and he attended high school in Manhattan's Lower East Side.
He went on to serve in the Army towards the end of World War II before attending Syracuse University on the G.I. Bill then returned to New York City. In the spring of 1953, he met Anne Meara after she burst out of a theatrical agent's office in tears.
Stiller took her out for coffee and listened as she vented about the degenerate men of New York. He revealed the story in his memoir, Married to Laughter.
"I really knew this was the man I would marry," Meara told People in 2000. "I knew he would never leave me."
They quickly realized their union was unlikely since their personalities and backgrounds were completely different.
"People would say to Anne, 'Heh, you're married to him?' I thought we could use it," Stiller said of developing their comedy routine.
But their friends quickly realized they were perfect for each other. Valerie Harper once said:
"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."
"Jerry started us being a comedy team," Meara told the New York Times. "At that time in my life, I disdained comedians."
They started with the improv group the Compass Players, which later became Second City. They then began performing in New York nightclubs in 1961. Meara gave birth to their daughter, Amy, that same year just after converting to Judaism.
"I wanted my children to know who they were," she said of her decision to convert.
Her son later said of his childhood,
"It wasn't the typical family setup," Ben Stiller would later recall. "We got to stay up late and go to TV studios. It was like this fun fantasyland. But we had no idea how hard they worked."