Hey, Very Big Fans of Jerry!
Father of Ben Stiller, Jerry Stiller too has had great success, playing lots of roles in movies and television shows. He’s probably best known for his roles as Frank Costanza in the classic television series, ‘Seinfeld’ as well as Arthur Spooner on ‘The King of Queens’. He’s also provided a good amount of voice acting for films like ‘The Lion King 1½’, ‘Fish Hooks’, ‘Foodfight!’, and, more!
I posted about Mr. Stiller a handful of years ago. We covered his camp experience at Surprise Lake Camp in New York and reviewed his education before he made his way onto the screen. I thought we could revisit him in order to learn more about this famous funny man!
Broke as a Joke
Jerry grew up the eldest child of three in the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the Great Depression. His family was very poor and would frequently get their meals from neighbors and relatives. After catching Vaudeville shows with his father, Jerry expressed interest in becoming an actor. His father recommended work as a stagehand instead for more steady work, but Jerry pursued acting anyway, making ends meet by selling ice cream, washing windows, and mixing cement.
Jerry Stiller has recounted the conversation when his agent called him and told him “They want you to play the father of George Costanza on ‘Seinfeld’.” In response, Jerry asked them, “Who’s Seinfeld?” A popular show running in its fifth season, there was some surprise that he had never heard of the show. What’s more—he originally passed because he had other engagements in a Broadway play, but they wanted him enough that they offered him the role again 6 months later.Stiller Instinct
Jerry was replacing the previous actor of George Costanza’s father on the show. He was instructed to play the role as a submissive husband to the always shrill and outraged wife, Estelle Costanza. He figured things would go the same way and eventually HE would be replaced. Out of impulse one day on the set, the wife character was shouting away at him and instead of bearing it all as the script called for, Jerry snapped back at her and the reaction was wild. Showrunner, Larry David, agreed that this was the right spin for this character.
Press onward with your dreams in the face of adversity and “safe” choices as Jerry Stiller did throughout his life. Check out acting at your next summer camp stay and, as always, thanks for reading Camp Folks!