These days, most married couples face a lot of challenges in sticking together. Divorce is as common as can be in the United States, and fewer and fewer couples make it to the big anniversaries.
But there was a couple for whom “‘Till death do us part” wasn’t just words. They made it to their diamond anniversary and beyond, 61 years in total. And what kept them together was the power of laughter.
While both Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller came from Brooklyn, they had very different family backgrounds, something they would celebrate in their famous comedy sketches on The Ed Sullivan Show. Both were interested in acting from a young age.
As Jerry Stiller said, “during the Great Depression, when people laughed, their worries disappeared. Audiences loved these funny men. I decided to become one.” Meara had the same thought!
When they met in 1953 outside an agent’s office, Jerry Stiller was 26 years old and Anne Meara was 24. Sparks flew and the two went for coffee to get to know each other. Sixty years later, they were still together.
While their match was definitely made in heaven, there was no question that they were very different. She was tall and from an Irish-American family. He was short and from a Jewish-American family. They even parodied their unusual match in a sketch on The Johnny Carson Show, imagining a distant future when computers would help people find dates!
After finding out they have different ethnic and religious backgrounds, they talk about how great the computer system is. “Takes all the guesswork out of meeting someone,” Meara’s character says. “It’s electronic, so you can’t make any mistakes!”
Working together as a comic duo for decades, Meara and Stiller drew on the foibles of their own relationship to make audiences laugh about life and love. But at home, they had a single intention: stick together no matter what came their way.
In an interview in 2000, Meara told People, per Simple Most, that she knew what would happen from the very beginning. “I really knew this was the man I would marry,” she said. “I knew he would never leave me.”
As for Stiller, he believes that they made it through because of their desire to be together. Per Brainy Quote: “We managed to hang in there. Today when people get married there’s a tendency to run away when things get tough. There is a lot of strength in hanging together.”
Both of them continued acting well past what would be retirement for most actors. Jerry Stiller found huge success as George Costanza’s father on Seinfeld in the 1990s and as Carrie Spooner’s father on The King of Queens in the 2000s. Asked about his long career and acting into his 80s, Stiller joked: “being on a sitcom stops me from getting Alzheimer’s,” per Brainy Quote.
As for Meara, she delighted audiences on TV with roles in Rhoda, Archie Bunker’s Place, All My Children, as well as The King of Queens, where she got to act opposite her husband. For the Stillers’ successful children, Amy and Ben, both of whom have become stars in the comedy and entertainment world, their parents made it seem easy.
Jerry Stiller told Closer that Anne Meara always thought of her kids first. “She loved being a mother. That was even more important to her than being onstage.” Their son, Ben Stiller, said, per Country Living, “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.” The couple’s crowning achievement came in 2007, when they were honored with a joint star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
"All of us in our family feel so lucky to have had her in our lives."
Anne Meara passed away on May 23, 2015, leaving her husband, Jerry, and kids Ben and Amy behind. As Jerry Stiller told Closer, “There were no walls between us in any way. We both knew what the other was thinking even when we weren’t listening.”
An incredible story of two kids from different sides of the tracks who found love and laughter, and stuck with it till the end.
Shot first "StillerandMeara.Com" webisode for Yahoo yesterday. Many F-bombs were dropped by my mother. Become a fan: www.facebook.com/StillerAndMeara