Thanks to TV’s Seinfeld, Jerry Stiller embodied what would become one of America’s most enduring and famous Jewish dads – even if his character’s last name was more stereotypically Italian (Costanza) than Jewish.
Born to Jewish immigrant parents from Poland, and raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Jerry (Yizchak) Stiller passed away May 11, 2020, a month shy of his 93rd birthday.
In Stiller’s acting roles throughout the decades, you find something that always includes schlemiels, schlimazels and nudniks: from Anne Meara and Stiller on the Ed Sullivan Show, to Stiller as Frank Costanza on Seinfeld, to Arthur Spooner on The King of Queens in more than 200 episodes, he gave life to all of these comic characters.
He is, however, most fondly remembered as Frank Costanza, the iconic father of the schlemiel, George Constanza, from the sitcom Seinfeld.
Speaking about himself in a five-part interview, Stiller notes that when he was a child, he was inspired to become an actor when he saw Jewish comic actor, Eddie Cantor.