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Anne Meara

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Anne Meara
Meara in 1975
Born(1929-09-20)September 20, 1929
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedMay 23, 2015(2015-05-23) (aged 85)
New York City, New York, U.S.
  • Comedian
  • actress
Years active1948–2015
(m. 1954)
Children2, including Ben

Anne Meara (September 20, 1929 – May 23, 2015) was an American comedian and actress. Along with her husband Jerry Stiller, she was one-half of the prominent 1960s comedy team Stiller and Meara. Their son is actor, director, and producer Ben Stiller. She was also featured on stage, on television, and in numerous films and later became a playwright. During her career, Meara was nominated for four Emmy Awards and a Tony Award, and she won a Writers Guild Award as a co-writer for the television movie The Other Woman.

Early years[edit]

Meara was born on September 20, 1929, in Brooklyn, New York City,[1] to Mary (née Dempsey)[1] and Edward Joseph Meara, a corporate lawyer for American Standard.[2] Both of her parents were of Irish descent.[3] An only child, she was raised in Rockville Centre, New York, on Long Island. When Anne was 11 years old, her mother committed suicide.[1]

When she was 18, Meara spent a year studying acting at the Dramatic Workshop at The New School and at HB Studio[4] under Uta Hagen in Manhattan. The following year, in 1948, she began her career as an actress in summer stock.[1]


Comedy team[edit]

Publicity photo of Meara and Jerry Stiller, 1965

Meara met actor-comedian Jerry Stiller in 1953, and they married soon after. 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."[1] They joined the Chicago improvisational company The Compass Players (which later became The Second City) and, after leaving, formed the comedy team of Stiller and Meara. She debuted off-Broadway in 1958 in Ulysses in Nighttown, based on the work by James Joyce. In 1961, she and Stiller were performing in nightclubs in New York and by the following year were considered a "national phenomenon", said the New York Times.[1]

Their often improvised comedy routines brought many relationship foibles to live audiences. Their skits focused on domestic themes, as did Nichols and May, another comedy team from the Chicago Compass Players project during that period. "They were Nichols and May without the acid and with warmth," notes author Lawrence Epstein.[5] They also 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 Nichols and May broke up as a team in 1961, Stiller and Meara were the number-one couple comedy team by the late 1960s. And as Mike Nichols and Elaine May were not married, Stiller and Meara became the most famous married couple comedy team since Burns and Allen.[7]

After some years honing the act, Stiller and Meara became regulars on The Ed Sullivan Show, with 36 appearances,[7] and other TV programs, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. They released their first LP in 1963, Presenting America's New Comedy Sensation: Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara Live at The Hungry I, which became a hit. By 1970, however, they broke up their act because it was affecting their marriage: "I didn't know where the act ended and our marriage began," complained Meara in 1977.[7] Stiller agreed, fearing, "I would have lost her as a wife."[7]

Television, stage, film, and video[edit]

During the 1970s, Meara and Stiller wrote and performed many radio commercials for Blue Nun Wine. In 1975, she starred in her own series, Kate McShane, on CBS. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1976; however, the show was canceled after ten episodes.[8][9] She had a recurring role on the sitcom Rhoda as airline stewardess Sally Gallagher, one of the title character's best friends. She had roles as Mrs. Curry in The Boys from Brazil (1978) and as Mrs. Sherwood in Fame (1980).

In the 1970s, she provided narration for segments of the educational television series Sesame Street consisting of scenes from silent films.

Meara in an episode of The Corner Bar, 1973

Meara co-starred with Carroll O'Connor (with whom she had appeared onstage off-Broadway many years earlier in Ulysses in Nighttown) 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 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.[10] She appeared as Dorothy Halligan Deaver, the grandmother, in the TV series ALF in the late 1980s. The Stiller and Meara Show, her own 1986 TV sitcom, in which Stiller played the deputy mayor of New York City and Meara portrayed his wife, a television commercial actress, was unsuccessful. From 1999 to 2007, Meara guest starred in The King of Queens (where her husband played Arthur Spooner), first as Mary Finnegan, then as Veronica Olchin (mother of Spence, who was played by Patton Oswalt). Veronica and Arthur were married in the series finale.

Starting in October 2010, Meara and 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.[11][12]

In 2011, she accepted a role in the off-Broadway play Love, Loss, and What I Wore with Conchata Ferrell, AnnaLynne McCord, Minka Kelly, and B. Smith.[13]

Writing and consulting[edit]

In 1995, Meara wrote the comedy After-Play, which became an off-Broadway production.[1][14] In her later years, she portrayed recurring roles on the television shows Sex and the City (as Mary Brady) and The King of Queens (as Veronica Olchin). During the 2004–05 season, she appeared in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

In 2009, Meara wrote her personal life reflections in a New York-focused online blog titled Mr. Beller's Neighborhood -- New York City Stories. In it, Meara recalled her mother's death and her childhood experiences at Catholic boarding school.[15]

Personal life[edit]


Meara was born, baptized, and raised a Roman Catholic. She converted to Judaism six years after marrying Stiller.[16][17] She insisted that she did not convert at Stiller's request, explaining, "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".[18] They discussed how they met and their early career during a guest appearance on the TV game show What's My Line? in 1968.[19]


Meara and her husband had two children, Amy and Ben.[20]


Meara died on May 23, 2015, aged 85, in Manhattan. She had been living in the Hebrew Home for the Aged following several strokes and reportedly died of natural causes.[21]



Sources: TCM;[22] AllMovie;[23]

Year Title Role Notes
1970 The Out-of-Towners Woman in Police Station
1970 Lovers and Other Strangers Wilma
1972 Irish Whiskey Rebellion Goldie Fain-Follies Star
1977 Nasty Habits Sister Geraldine
1978 The Boys from Brazil Mrs. Curry
1980 Fame Mrs. Sherwood
1984 In Our Hands Documentary
1986 The Longshot Madge
1986 The Perils of P.K.
1987 My Little Girl Mrs. Shopper
1989 That's Adequate Charlene Lane
1990 Awakenings Miriam
1992 Through an Open Window 24-minute short
1991 Highway to Hell Medea
1993 So You Want to Be an Actor Herself Short subject
1994 Reality Bites Louise
1994 The Search for One-Eye Jimmy Holly Hoyt
1995 Heavyweights Alice Bushkin
1995 Kiss of Death Bev's Mother
1996 The Daytrippers Rita Malone
1998 The Thin Pink Line Mrs. Langstrom
1998 Southie Mrs. Quinn
1999 The Diary of the Hurdy-Gurdy Man
1999 Judy Berlin Bea
1999 Brooklyn Thrill Killers 29-minute short
1999 A Fish in the Bathtub Molly
2000 Amy Stiller's Breast Herself Short subject
2000 The Independent Rita
2001 Zoolander Protestor Uncredited
2001 Keeping It Real: The Adventures of Greg Walloch Documentary
2001 Get Well Soon Linda
2002 Like Mike Sister Theresa
2002 The Yard Sale 19-minute short
2003 Crooked Lines Hard Boiled
2004 Chump Change Casting Director
2006 Night at the Museum Debbie
2007 The Mirror
2007 The Shallow End of the Ocean Voice of Alice 28-minute short
2009 When the Evening Comes Marion Corrado
2009 The Queen of Greenwich Village 13-minute short
2009 Another Harvest Moon Ella
2014 Simpler Times 33-minute short with Jerry Stiller
2014 Planes: Fire & Rescue Winnie Voice


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1954–55 The Greatest Gift Harriet 219 episodes
1954 The Philco Television Playhouse Betty Blake Episode: "Man on the Mountaintop"
1959 The DuPont Show of the Month Performer Episode: "Oliver Twist"
1960 Ninotchka Anna ABC TV movie [24]
1964–65 Linus! The Lion Hearted Voice Animated TV series, 3 episodes
1971 Dames at Sea Joan Television Special [25]
1971–72 The Courtship of Eddie's Father Bunny Sterling
Annie Dempsey
2 episodes
1971–73 Love, American Style Various roles 2 episodes
1973 The Paul Lynde Show Grace Dickerson 3 episodes
1973 The Corner Bar Mae/Jennifer Bradley Cast member, 7 episodes
1974 Medical Center Rose Miller Episode: "The Enemies"
1975 Kate McShane Kate McShane Cancelled after 10 episodes
1976–77 Rhoda Sally Gallagher 7 episodes
1977–78 Take Five with Stiller & Meara
1979–83 Love Boat Various roles 3 episodes
1979–82 Archie Bunker's Place Veronica Rooney 52 episodes
1979–82 HBO Sneak Previews Costarred with Jerry Stiller
1983 The Other Woman Peg Gilford TV movie (CBS);
Meara co-wrote the teleplay with Lila Garrett
1986 The Stiller and Meara Show Performer Co-writer; Canceled after a few weeks
1987 Saturday Night Live Bartender Episode: "Charlton Heston/Wynton Marsalis"
1987–89 ALF Dorothy Halligan 7 episodes
1987–89 CBS Schoolbreak Special Mrs. Salters Episode: "The Day They Came to Arrest the Book"
1988–93 Murder, She Wrote Winnie Tupper Banner
Mae Shaughnessy
2 episodes
1990 Monsters Greta Episode: "One Wolf's Family"
1991 The General Motors Playwrights Theater Rose Finker Episode: "Avenue Z Afternoon"
1991 Shalom Sesame Miriam Episode: "Show 10: Passover"
1991 American Playhouse Bernice Shapiro "The Sunset Gang": segment: "The Detective"
1992–99 All My Children Peggy Moody 5 episodes
1992–99 CBS Schoolbreak Special Patricia Lennon Episode: "Love off Limits"
1994 In the Heat of the Night Roda Episode: "Poor Relations"
1994 Great Performances: The Mother Mrs. Geegan PBS TV movie, Oct. 24, 1994 [27]
1994 Murphy Brown Reena Bernecky 2 episodes
1996 Homicide: Life on the Street Donna DiGrazi 2 episodes
1997 Jitters mother TV movie [28]
1999 After Play Writer and cast member
1999–02 Oz Aunt Brenda O'Reily 2 episodes
The King of Queens Mary Finnegan (1999)
Veronica Olchin (2003–07)
10 episodes
2001 What Makes a Family Evelyn Cataldi TV movie (Lifetime) [29]
2001 Ed Barbara Gennacarro Episode: "The Test"
2001 Will & Grace Mrs. Friedman Episode: "Star-Spangled Banter"
2002–04 Sex and the City Mary Brady 4 episodes
2003 Good Morning, Miami Claire's Friend Episode: "The Slow and the Furious"
2003 Charlie Lawrence Pauline Lawrence Episode: "If It's Not One Thing It's Your Mother" [30]
2004–12 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Ida Becker
Irene Kerns
Episode: "Scavenger"
Episode: "Dreams Deferred"
2006 Four Kings Ruth Episode: "Pilot"
2009 Mercy Estelle Thalberg Episode: "The Last Thing I Said Was"
2009–10 Wonder Pets! Granny Ginny/Granny Winny 2 episodes: Voice
2010 Gravity Mrs. Talbot Episode: "Old People Creep Me Out"
2011 Rip City Myrt TVLand sitcom pilot that did not sell [32]


Year Title Credit(s) Notes Ref.
1956 A Month in the Country Katina the maid Phoenix Theatre, Off-Broadway [33]
1956 The Good Woman of Setzuan Niece [34]
1957 Miss Loneyhearts Sick-of-it-All Music Box Theatre, Broadway [35]
1958 As You Like It Audrey Joseph Papp Public Theater, Off-Broadway [36]
1958 Ulysseys in Nighttown Various roles Rooftop Theatre, Off-Broadway [37]
1971 The House of Blue Leaves Bunny Flingus Truck and Warehouse Theatre, Off-Broadway [38]
1984 Spookhouse Performer Playhouse 91, Off-Broadway [39]
1984 A... My Name Is Alice Writer Top of the Gate, Off-Broadway [40]
1988 Romeo and Juliet Nurse Joseph Papp Public Theater, Off-Broadway [41]
1988 Eastern Standard May Logan John Golden Theatre, Broadway [42]
1993 Anna Christie Marthy Owen Center Stage Right, Broadway [43]
1995 After-Play Terry Guteman
Theatre Four, Broadway [44]
2000 Down the Garden Paths Playwright Minetta Lane Theatre, Off-Broadway [45]
2011 Love, Loss and What I Wore Performer Westside Theatre, Off-Broadway [46]


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1976 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress - Television Rhoda Nominated [citation needed]
1976 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Kate McShane Nominated
1981 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Archie Bunker's Place Nominated
1982 Nominated
1997 Guest Actress in a Drama Series Homicide: Life on the Street Nominated
1984 Writers Guild of America Awards Original/Adapted Comedy Anthology The Other Woman Won
1993 Tony Awards Best Featured Actress in a Play Anna Christie Nominated [47]
1996 Outer Critics Circle Award John Gassner Award After-Play Won
  • On February 9, 2007, Meara and Jerry Stiller received stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7018 Hollywood Blvd.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Anne Meara, Comedian and Actress, Dies at 85". The New York Times. May 24, 2015. Archived from the original on May 24, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2015.
  2. ^ "E.J. Meara, Creator Of Comedy Skits, 73". The New York Times. December 16, 1966. Archived from the original on November 6, 2012.
  3. ^ Bloom, Nate (March 17, 2009). "A Pint of Guinness, A Cup of Manischevitz: Some Irish/Jewish Connections". InterfaithFamily.com. Archived from the original on July 6, 2015. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
  4. ^ HB Studio Alumni
  5. ^ Epstein, Lawrence. Mixed Nuts: America's Love Affair with Comedy Teams, PublicAffairs, Perseus Book (2004) p. 224
  6. ^ Johnny Carson (August 27, 2012). "Stiller & Meara on Computer Dating". Archived from the original on March 7, 2018. Retrieved April 30, 2018 – via YouTube.
  7. ^ a b c d "Anne Meara, Comedian of Stiller & Meara Fame, Dies at 85" Archived May 25, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Hollywood Reporter, May 24, 2015
  8. ^ Kate McShane TV Guide
  9. ^ "Anne Meara Biography and Emmy" emmys.com, retrieved August 17, 2018.
  10. ^ "Mrs. Sherwood's Classroom in Fame Archived March 10, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, video clip
  11. ^ "Meet Ben Stiller's Parents on New Yahoo! Web Show". TVGuide.com. Archived from the original on December 27, 2010.
  12. ^ "Stiller & Meara". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on March 12, 2013. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  13. ^ Gans, Andrew (April 14, 2011). "Minka Kelly, Susan Sullivan Set for Love, Loss... Off-Broadway". Playbill. Archived from the original on April 20, 2011. Retrieved April 21, 2011.
  14. ^ "After-Play" script, Dramatists Play Service (1996)
  15. ^ Meara, Anne (June 8, 2009). "Old Nuns".
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ "LA Times". pqarchiver.com. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  18. ^ Elkin, Michael (July 28, 1995). "ON THE SCENE: Stiller and Meara marry comedy and a home life". Jewish Exponent. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved December 22, 2008.
  19. ^ "Stiller & Meara on "What's My Line?" (1968) Archived May 26, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, video
  20. ^ Gallagher, Donald W. (December 8, 1985). "COMEDY'S FIRST COUPLE FIND COMMERCIAL SUCCESS". Orlando Sentinel. p. F9. ProQuest 276713421. Jerry Stiller and Ann Meara are so familiar to the average American that sitting down to talk with them is like relaxing with neighbors over a cup of coffee. [...] The couple's love for the theater has rubbed off on their children. Both daughter Amy, 24, and son Ben, 20, are acting students in New York.
  21. ^ "Actress and Comedian Anne Meara, Mother of Ben Stiller, Dies at 85". Variety. May 24, 2015. Archived from the original on May 25, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2015.
  22. ^ "Anne Meara Filmography", tcm.com. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  23. ^ "Filmography", allmovie.com, Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  24. ^ Ninotchka, tcm.com. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  25. ^ "Dames at Sea Bell System Family theatre presents Ann Margret, Dames at Sea", princeton.edu. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  26. ^ " 'The Other Woman' Overview", tcm.com. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  27. ^ O'Connor, John J. "Television Review: Nostalgia For Drama Of TV Past", nytimes.com, October 24, 1994.
  28. ^ Kelleher, Terry. "Picks and Pans Review: 'Jitters'", people.com, May 5, 1997.
  29. ^ Wertheimer, Ron. "Television Review; In This Fight Over Custody, Parents Loved Each Other", nytimes.com, January 22, 2001.
  30. ^ " 'Charlie Lawrence' Cast", tvguide.com. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  31. ^ "'Law & Order: SVU' Enlists Patricia Arquette, Anne Meara". The Hollywood Reporter. November 6, 2012. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  32. ^ "Fran Drescher, Rita Moreno, Donald Faison, Wayne Knight, Kristen Johnston, Christine Taylor and Sherri Shepherd Among Hollywood Stars Signed for TV Land Pilots Taping February 2011", prnewswire.com, February 8, 2011.
  33. ^ A Month in the Country, ibdb.com. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  34. ^ The Good Woman of Setzuan, ibdb.com. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  35. ^ Miss Loneyhearts, ibdb.com. Retrieved August 14, 2018
  36. ^ As You Like It, lortel.org. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  37. ^ Ulysseys in Nightown, lortel.org. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  38. ^ The House of Blue Leaves, broadwayworld.com. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  39. ^ Spookhouse, broadwayworld.com. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  40. ^ A... My Name Is Alice, lortel.org. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  41. ^ Romeo and Juliet, lortel.org. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  42. ^ Eastern Standard, lortel.org. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  43. ^ Anna Christie, ibdb.com. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  44. ^ After-Play lortel.org. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  45. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "Review. Down the Garden Paths", Variety, November 19, 2000.
  46. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Conchata Ferrell, Anne Meara Explore Love, Loss... Off-Broadway, Starting April 27", Playbill.com, April 27, 2011.
  47. ^ "Anne Meara". Playbill.com. Retrieved May 11, 2020.

External links[edit]