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Jerry Stiller Confessed Kids' Births 'Screwed' Him Up — He Was Unaware His Son 'Felt Lonely' Growing Up

Olawale Ogunjimi
Apr 14, 2022
09:30 P.M.
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Jerry Stiller's comedic chops were incredible, especially while working with his wife onscreen. The couple created magic on TV and in reality. However, Jerry was not an expert in parenting, and he was unaware of how bad it affected his son.


The iconic Jerry Stiller was a World War II veteran who later established himself in entertainment as a comedian, actor, and author.

Indeed, Jerry's career soared in Hollywood, and he dedicated most of his life to working alongside his wife, Anne Meara, in the ever-green "Stiller and Meara" husband-and-wife show.

[Left] Jerry Stiller and his wife Ann Meara sit with their children, Ben and Amy Stiller, at the UJA telethon; [Right] Actor Jerry Stiller and his son, Ben Stiller at the Dreamworks' premiere of "I Love You, Man" held at Mann's Village Theater on March 17, 2009 in Westwood, California. | Source: Getty Images


The couple spent six decades creating memories in their marriage. However, their love story began in the summer of 1953, the same year they met.

Jerry, a Syracuse University alum, was in New York when he ran into Meara, a stage actress. She had tearfully left a theatrical agent's office because the man had harassed her.

Soon, the two went on a coffee date, where the stage actress poured out her frustrations on the disgraceful attitudes of some men in the industry.

Husband and wife comedy team: Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara on the set of "Love & Marriage. | Source: Getty Images


Jerry, who had initiated the date, listened to her. Soon, the pair grew fond of each other, and following a very short courtship, they became husband and wife. In 2000, Meara mentioned that she knew Jerry was her soulmate almost as soon as they met. In her words

"I really knew this was the man I would marry. I knew he would never leave me."

But despite this conviction, the couple had different characters, and it did not take time for them to discover the contrast.

American actors Jerry Stiller and Ann Meara sit with their children, Ben and Amy Stiller, at the UJA telethon. | Source: Getty Images


Meara had a simple mind, always made decisions spontaneously, and shared a different religious and ethnic background from her intense-natured husband, who was calm and collected in his thoughts.

The stage actress was also two inches taller than her husband. These discrepancies caused friends to question the reality of their marriage.

However, it did not deter them. Instead, they complimented each other and based the plot of their successful show on their differences. 

Jerry Stiller and Ben Stiller at the performance of "The Gin Game" on June 4, 1978 at the Martin Beck Theater in New York City. | Source: Getty Images


Their "Stiller and Meara" show highlighted their disparities, from the heights to ethnicity. The couple starred as the short Jewish "Hershey Horowitz" and the tall Catholic "Mary Elizabeth Doyle."

During the 60s and 70s, fans had a fill of the most iconic humor watching them perform. Years later, after achieving more successes on their own, the couple teamed up in works like "Rhoda," "Archie Bunker's Place," and " King of Queens."


Jerry Stiller and his wife, Anne Meara with their children Amy Stiller and Ben Stiller. | Source: Getty Images


The couple became parents in 1961, following the birth of their daughter, Amy. Their first child was born during the peak of their fame. Four years later, they welcomed another child, Ben.  

Jerry was not around for the two births because he was busy with work. Decades later, the father of two somehow blamed his kids, adding that they "screwed" him up because they never arrived on the due date. According to him:

"What could I do? I was making a living…These kids have always screwed me up, coming too soon. They promise me a date and mess me up."

Comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara at the "58th Annual Tony Awards" at Radio City Music Hall on June 6, 2004 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images


The "Stiller and Meara" actor further explained that Ben's birth was the worst because he came through cesarean, and Meara was alone, without a husband to comfort her.

Despite joking about the events, Jerry mentioned that his kids forgave him, but they sometimes talked about his absence at their births.

Following the birth of their second child, the family became more comfortable, and they purchased their seven-and-a-half room co-op on the Upper West Side, New York, where they lived for more than three decades.

Ben Stiller and his father, Jerry Stiller, attend party hosted by NBC at Sconset Playhouse on June 19, 1998 in Massachusetts | Source: Getty Images


Their finances were adequate, and money was never a problem for them. However, Jerry was not equipped for fatherhood. Initially, he did poorly as a dad because he failed to understand the kids, particularly his son.

There was an instance when the couple left their children to work on "Archie Bunker's Place." While on set, Ben phoned to tell his dad that he took acid and would never remain the same. Jerry tried to dismiss his son's worries by citing his own experience as a kid.

Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara on June 6, 2004 in New York City | Source: Getty Images


However, that was not what Ben wanted or needed. When his parents returned, the young man confessed the truth. In Jerry's words:

"When I got home, he told me that he'd felt lonely."


Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara on June 18, 2003 in New York City | Source: Getty Images


Jerry knew he needed to fine-tune his relationship with his son as an older adult. So he attempted to be close to him, and Ben, already independent, welcomed the idea.

However, the "Stiller and Meara" star considered being too careful with his utterances and confessed that he was insulting his son unknowingly. He said:

"We were trying to be as close as we could be, but I had to be very careful with what I said. I was insulting him without knowing it."

Jerry Stiller on November 17, 1971 | Source: Getty Images


While Jerry constantly filtered his words, he was genuinely concerned about his son's well-being and would often advise him on taking proper care of himself.

The comedian was so passionate about redeeming himself as a father that he never engaged in conversations about his features. This was because he valued their approval and did not want them to get the wrong impression about him. Jerry maintained that:

"I never want them to think that my life is more important than theirs."

Jerry Stiller attends the 25th anniversary of Columbia University's Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall on May 4, 2012 | Source: Getty Images


Although Jerry did not begin well as a father, he ended brilliantly. On the other hand, his kids showered him with love and support.

When the "Stiller and Meara" star lost his dad, Ben wanted to be present at the funeral. But Jerry, worried about fatigue from work, told his son not to bother. Surprisingly, Ben and Amy showed up at their grandfather's funeral to help out and care for their dad.


Jerry Stiller, Christine Taylor, Ben Stiller, Anne Meara, and Amy Stiller attend the 2012 Made In NY Awards on June 4, 2012 | Source: Getty Images


Despite not having much attention from their father as kids, Jerry's mini-mes cherish and advance their parents' legacy by having successful careers each. Amy is a notable actress and writer with famous works to her name, including "Inside Amy Schumer," "Divorce," and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

Her brother, a UCLA dropout, also has an impressive resume. Ben became interested in acting and creating stories at age 10: he shot films on his Super 8 camera.

The younger actor's debut performance was in Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun." A few years later, he was catapulted into the spotlight and has continued to appear in blockbusters.


Jerry Stiller as Arthur on "The King of Queens" in July 2005 | Source: Getty Images

Ben also featured his parents in a few movies. With his expertise, he gained the admiration of his family. When Jerry was directed by his son in "Zoolander," the older actor was in awe of him, which he confessed in writing.


Although at first, he did not want people to think that he was making a comeback through his child, Jerry praised Ben's understanding of the craft, adding that the young man did everything he never could.

Ben explained that his dad never really blurted his feelings in person following this revelation from an old article. Still, the "Empire of the Sun" actor acknowledged that the World War II veteran meant "I love my son" with his words. 


Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara at Gracie Mansion on June 4, 2012 in New York City | Source: Getty Images


Meara remained married to her husband for sixty-one years until death snatched her away from his grasp in 2015. She was 85 years old. Her family released the time of her death, but no further details of the cause were shared.

Five years later, Jerry passed away from natural causes. While grieving the actor, Ben posted a tweet including a photo of the deceased. 

He complimented his dad as a great father, grandfather, and husband, adding that he would be "greatly missed." Ben and Amy spent time with their dad before he died. The younger actor confessed that Jerry did not have a Covid-19-related illness, but he had been sick for a while.


Ben Stiller and Jerry Stiller arrive at the HELP HAITI - Urban Zen HHRH & The Stiller Foundation on February 11, 2011. | Source: Getty Images

During his last days, the siblings remained close to him, enjoying every time with him while wishing he had more. Even though it was tough, Jerry died peacefully in the company of his kids. According to Ben: 

"The last week or two were tougher for him. But he went peacefully, and he had a sense of humor, for sure, until the end."

In the end, Meara and Jerry lived a wonderful life consisting of a few years of fame as a dynamic duo, a successful marriage, and kids who made them proud.


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