Anne Meara

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Anne Meara
Anne Meara 1975.JPG
Meara in 1975.
Born (1929-09-20)September 20, 1929
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died May 23, 2015(2015-05-23) (aged 85)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Cause of death
Natural Causes
Occupation Actress
Years active 1954–2015
Spouse(s) Jerry Stiller
1954–2015 (her death)
Children Ben Stiller, Amy Stiller

Anne Meara (September 20, 1929 – May 23, 2015) was an American actress and comedian. She and husband Jerry Stiller were a prominent 1960s comedy team, appearing as Stiller and Meara. She also appeared on stage, television, numerous films, and became a playwright.

During her career Meara was nominated for four Emmy Awards and won a Writers Guild Award as a co-writer for the TV movie, The Other Woman. She and Stiller are the parents of actor and filmmaker Ben Stiller (1965) and actress Amy Stiller (1961).

Early years[edit]

Meara was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of parents of Irish descent, Mary (née Dempsey) and Edward Joseph Meara, a lawyer.[1][2][3] She was raised in Rockville Centre in Long Island, New York and was an only child. Her mother committed suicide when she was 11.[4]

When she was eighteen she spent a year studying acting at the Dramatic Workshop at The New School in Manhattan. The following year, 1948, she began her career as an actress in summer stock.[4]


Comedy team[edit]

Meara met actor-comedian Jerry Stiller in 1953 and they married the following year. Until he suggested it, she had never thought of doing comedy. "Jerry started us being a comedy team," she said. "He always thought I would be a great comedy partner."[4] They joined the improvisational company The Compass Players (which later became The Second City), and after leaving, formed the comedy team of Stiller and Meara. In 1961 they were performing in nightclubs in New York, and by the following year were considered a "national phenomenon," writes the New York Times.[4]

Their often-improvised comedy routines brought many of their real-life relationship foibles to live audiences. Their skits focused on domestic themes, as did Nichols and May, another comedy team during that period. "They were Nichols and May without the acid and with warmth," notes author Lawrence Epstein.[5] They added a new twist to their comedy act, he adds, by sometimes playing up the fact that Stiller was Jewish and Meara was Catholic.[6]

After some years honing the act, Stiller and Meara became regulars on The Ed Sullivan Show and other TV programs, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Their career as a comedy team eventually declined, however, as variety shows gradually disappeared.[citation needed]

Television and film[edit]

During the 1970s, Meara and Stiller wrote and performed many radio commercials together for Blue Nun Wine. She had a recurring role on the sitcom Rhoda as airline stewardess Sally Gallagher, one of the title character's best friends. She also had a small role opposite Laurence Olivier in The Boys from Brazil (1978). In 1975 she starred in her own series Kate McShane on CBS, which she was nominated for an Emmy Award, but the series was cancelled after only 10 episodes.[citation needed]

Meara costarred with Carroll O'Connor and Martin Balsam in the early 1980s hit sitcom Archie Bunker's Place, which was a continuation of the influential 1970s sitcom All in the Family. She played the role of Veronica Rooney, the bar's cook, for the show's first three seasons (1979–1982). During that time, she acted in the movie Fame (1980), in which she played English teacher Elizabeth Sherwood.[7] She also appeared as the grandmother in the TV series ALF in the late 1980s. Her own 1986 TV sitcom, The Stiller and Meara Show, in which Stiller played the deputy mayor of New York City and Meara portrayed his wife, a television commercial actress, was unsuccessful.

In 1995 she branched out to writing with the comedy, After-Play, which became an Off-Broadway production.[4][8] More recently, she has had recurring roles on the television shows Sex and the City (as Mary Brady) and The King of Queens (as Veronica). In the 2004–05 season, she appeared in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

She was the consulting director of J.A.P. – The Jewish American Princesses of Comedy, a 2007 Off-Broadway production that features live stand-up routines by four female Jewish comics juxtaposed with the stories of legendary performers from the 1950s and 1960s: Totie Fields, Jean Carroll, Pearl Williams, Betty Walker and Belle Barth.[citation needed]

Starting in October 2010, Meara and her husband Jerry Stiller began starring in a Yahoo! web series called Stiller & Meara produced by Red Hour Digital, a production company owned by their son Ben Stiller.[9][10]

She accepted a role in the Off-Broadway play Love, Loss, and What I Wore for an April 27 through May 29, 2011, run with Conchata Ferrell, AnnaLynne McCord, Minka Kelly and B. Smith.[11] She continued actively developing the next generation as demonstrated by teaching a technique and scene study class at HB Studio up until her death.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Meara was raised a Roman Catholic, but converted to Reform Judaism six years after marrying Jerry Stiller.[12][13] She insisted that she did not convert at Stiller's request, but because "Catholicism was dead to me." She took her conversion seriously and studied the Jewish faith in such depth that her Jewish-born husband quipped, "Being married to Anne has made me more Jewish."[14] They discussed how they met and their early career during a guest appearance on the TV game show, What's My Line? in 1968.[15]

Meara has written about her mother's death and her childhood experiences at Catholic boarding school.[16]


Meara died on May 23, 2015, at the age of 85.[17] She is survived by her husband of 61 years, Jerry Stiller, her son, actor Ben Stiller, her daughter, actress and comedian Amy Stiller, and two grandchildren.[4]


Television work[edit]


  • "Love, Loss and What I Wore" (April 27, 2011 – May 28, 2011, rotating cast)
  • "Down the Garden Paths" (November 19, 2000 – January 14, 2001, playwright)
  • "After-Play" (1995, playwright & and also played Terry Guteman from May 16, 1995 – April 28, 1996, As playwright, she won the 1995 Outer Critics Circle Award John Gassner Award)
  • "Anna Christie" (1993, as Marthy Owen; Tony Award nominee for Best Featured Actress in a Play)
  • "Eastern Standard" (1988, as May Logan)
  • "Romeo and Juliet" (1988, 9 performances, as Nurse, Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival)
  • "A...My Name is Alice" (1984, co-writer; Women's Project & Productions)
  • "Spookhouse" (1984, Harvey Fierstein comedy closed after 6 performances)
  • "The House of Blue Leaves" (February 10, 1971 – December 3, 1971, as Bunny Flingus)
  • "Ulysseys in Nightown" (1958)
  • "As You Like It" (1958, as Audrey; Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival)
  • "Miss Loneyhearts" (1957, as Sick-of-it-All)
  • "The Good Woman of Setzuan" (1956 as Niece)
  • "A Month in the Country" (1956, as Katina, a maid)


  • I'd Rather Eat Pants, National Public Radio, 2002
  • Dining Alone (Blue Nun wine ad with Jerry Stiller, winner Clio Award, 1975)


  1. ^ Bloom, Nate (March 17, 2009). Interfaith "A Pint of Guinness, A Cup of Manischevitz: Some Irish/Jewish Connections".
  2. ^ Anne Meara Biography (1929–)
  3. ^ "E.J. Meara, Creator Of Comedy Skits, 73". The New York Times. December 16, 1966. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Anne Meara, Comedian and Actress, Dies at 85", New York Times, May 24, 2015
  5. ^ Epstein, Lawrence. Mixed Nuts: America's Love Affair with Comedy Teams, PublicAffairs, Perseus Book (2004) p. 224
  6. ^ "Stiller & Meara on Computer Dating"
  7. ^ "Mrs. Sherwood's Classroom in Fame, video clip
  8. ^ "After-Play" script, Dramatists Play Service (1996)
  9. ^ "Meet Ben Stiller's Parents on New Yahoo! Web Show". 
  10. ^ "Stiller & Meara". Yahoo!. 
  11. ^ Gans, Andrew (April 14, 2011). "Minka Kelly, Susan Sullivan Set for Love, Loss... Off-Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  12. ^ O'Toole, Lesley (December 22, 2006). "Ben Stiller : 'Doing Comedy Is Scary'". The Independent. Archived from the original on January 8, 2007. Retrieved December 22, 2006. 
  13. ^ LA Times
  14. ^ Elkin, Michael (July 28, 1995). "ON THE SCENE: Stiller and Meara marry comedy and a home life". Jewish Exponent. Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  15. ^ "Stiller & Meara on "What's My Line?" (1968), video
  16. ^ Meara, Anne (June 8, 2009). "Old Nuns". 
  17. ^ "Actress and Comedian Anne Meara, Mother of Ben Stiller, Dies at 85". Variety. May 24, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2015. 

External links[edit]