As Ben Stiller continues to grieve the death of his father, comedy great Jerry Stiller, the actor took time to discuss the TV icon’s legacy and treasured moments spent together both on and off camera. Speaking to The New Yorker, the 54-year-old director was asked what he made of the following quote from an old …
As Ben Stiller continues to grieve the death of his father, comedy great Jerry Stiller, the actor took time to discuss the TV icon’s legacy and treasured moments spent together both on and off camera.
Speaking to The New Yorker, the 54-year-old director was asked what he made of the following quote from an old profile, in which Jerry admitted he didn’t want to be perceived as riding Ben’s coattails while appearing in several of his films. He also praised his only son as being “ahead” of him in the talent department:
“In later years, Stiller would often put his parents in his films. Jerry Stiller says that, when he appeared in ‘Zoolander,’ ‘Ben was acting with me, and also directing me—”Do it this way, Dad. No, this way.” He wanted perfection, and I was getting a little huffy. I didn’t even want to be in the movie.’ Meara interjected, ‘Jerry was afraid people would think he was riding on his son’s coattails.’ ‘Yeah, something like that,’ he admitted. ‘Ben was ahead of me, in a lot of ways. Everything I could never do, Ben could do.’”
Taken aback by the quote, the Ben responded, “I never read that before. I never heard that. I think he would write these things down. Or he would say these things, but he never said it to me—something like that.
“I was coming from my own point of view of trying to figure out who I was in relation to him,” he continued. “What I’ve always felt over the years is I wanted to do my thing, and my dad and mom did their thing—and were so good at it. And it’s, like, my dad is so funny. Like, I’ve never, ever thought I was funny like my dad. Or as funny as my dad. I’ve never really felt a competition, because I would lose, hands down.”
Stiller went on to clarify that comparing yourself to others in your field is the norm, but never felt he and the “King of Queens” actor were competitive.
“I think, in that quote, he was saying, ‘I love my son.’ It wasn’t, like, ‘I’m in competition with my son.’ And I really feel that. I’m sure that he felt at times, like, ‘Oh, Ben’s doing a movie.’ And he wasn’t. I think that’s a natural thing when you have a career. But it never was manifest in our relationship. And that’s what I think is the beauty of his career, and his life—that he had this incredibly long career that ended in a great way. And nobody has to be reminded of what he did. Like you said, his work is going to live on. To me, that’s the beauty of what he did.”
Jerry also made sure to regularly praise wife and comedy partner Anne Meara, with Ben believing his father would place his work with Meara above one of his most well-known roles as Frank Costanza on “Seinfeld.”
“I think the only thing that might have bothered him a little bit was that he wanted people to remember his work with Anne, because he loved my mom so much.” Ben revealed. “I think that would be the only aspect of it. He would be, like, ‘But, Anne—Anne is amazing.’”
Last week, Ben publicly announced the passing of his father on Twitter, writing, “I’m sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes.”
His mother passed away in 2015 at the age of 85.