Comedian Anne Meara, mother of actor Ben Stiller, dies at 85

Sun May 24, 2015 10:58pm EDT
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(Reuters) - New York-born actress and comedian Anne Meara, known for her opposites-attract comedy routine with husband Jerry Stiller, died over the weekend, her family said on Sunday. She was 85.

Meara, the mother of actor Ben Stiller, died on Saturday, her family said in a statement through a representative, but provided no details about the circumstances of her death.

"She is survived by her husband and partner in life Jerry Stiller," the statement said. "The two were married for 61 years and worked together almost as long."

Meara was born on Sept. 20, 1929 and started her career in so-called summer stock theater. In 1954 she joined the cast of short-lived NBC soap opera The Greatest Gift, according to a profile on

Meara and Stiller, who met in 1953 at an agent's office and married a few months later, worked together in the Compass Players comedy troupe, a precursor to the Second City organization, before forming their own duo.

By the 1960s, they had become a popular comedy duo on American television, making 36 appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Their act included skits such as an interview with the biblical Jonah after his encounter with the whale and parodies of TV commercials.

Much of their humor was marriage-based and focused on height - Stiller was 5-foot-4 (1.62 meters), Meara was taller - and ethnicity - he was Jewish, she was of Irish heritage.

"Our marriage has lasted because we have the same feelings of insecurity about being an actor. We needed stability," Stiller told the New York Daily News in 2012.   Continued...

Jerry Stiller and his wife Anne Meara attend a ceremony where the couple is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California February 9, 2007. REUTERS/Phil McCarten