Anne Meara

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Anne Meara
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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 she was nominated for four Emmy Awards and won a Writers Guild Award as a co-writer for the TV movie, The Other Woman. They are the parents of actor and filmmaker Ben Stiller and actress Amy Stiller.

Early years

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

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.


Comedy team

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." 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.

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. 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.

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.

Television and film

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.

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. 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. 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.

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.

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. She continued actively developing the next generation as demonstrated by teaching a technique and scene study class at HB Studio up until her death.

Personal life

Meara was raised a Roman Catholic, but converted to Reform Judaism six years after marrying Jerry Stiller. 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." They discussed how they met and their early career during a guest appearance on the TV game show, What's My Line? in 1968.

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


Meara died on May 23, 2015, at the age of 85. 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.


  • The Out-of-Towners (1970)
  • Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
  • Irish Whiskey Rebellion (1972)
  • Nasty Habits (1977)
  • The Boys from Brazil (1978)
  • Fame (1980)
  • In Our Hands (1984) (documentary)
  • The Longshot (1986)
  • The Perils of P.K. (1986)
  • My Little Girl (1987)
  • That's Adequate (1989)
  • Awakenings (1990)
  • Through an Open Window (1992, 24-minute short)
  • Highway to Hell (1992)
  • So You Want to Be an Actor (1993, as herself, short subject)
  • Reality Bites (1994)
  • The Search for One-Eye Jimmy (1994)
  • Heavyweights (1995)
  • Kiss of Death (1995)
  • The Daytrippers (1996)
  • The Thin Pink Line (1998)
  • Southie (1998)
  • The Diary of the Hurdy-Gurdy Man (1999)
  • Judy Berlin (1999)
  • Brooklyn Thrill Killers (1999, 29-minute short)
  • A Fish in the Bathtub (1999)
  • Amy Stiller's Breast (2000, as herself, short subject)
  • The Independent (2000)
  • Zoolander (2001, uncredited)
  • Keeping It Real: The Adventures of Greg Walloch (2001) (documentary)
  • Get Well Soon (2001)
  • Like Mike (2002)
  • The Yard Sale (2002, 19-minute short)
  • Crooked Lines (2003)
  • Chump Change (2004)
  • Night at the Museum (2006)
  • The Mirror (2007)
  • The Shallow End of the Ocean (2007, 28-minute short, voice of Alice)
  • Sex and the City: The Movie (2008)
  • When the Evening Comes (2009)
  • The Queen of Greenwich Village (2009, 13-minute short)
  • Another Harvest Moon (2009)
  • Simpler Times (2014, 33-minute short with Jerry Stiller)
  • Planes: Fire & Rescue (2014, voice of Winnie)

Television work

  • The Greatest Gift (TV series) (1954–1955 as Harriet)
  • The Philco Television Playhouse (1 episode: "Man on the Mountaintop" 10/17/54 as Betty Blake)
  • The DuPont Show of the Month" (1 episode: "Oliver Twist" 12/4/59)
  • Ninotchka (1960 as Anna)
  • Linus! The Lion Hearted" (animated TV series, just 3 episodes in 1964—65)
  • Dames at Sea (November 15, 1971)
  • The Courtship of Eddie's Father (2 episodes: 1971 and 1972)
  • Love American Style (2 episodes, 1971 and 1973)
  • The Paul Lynde Show (1973, 3 episodes as Grace Dickerson)
  • The Corner Bar (cast member in 1973, 7 episodes)
  • Medical Center (1974, 1 episode)
  • Kate McShane (1975, cancelled aftyer 10 episodes)
  • Rhoda (cast member from 1976–1977)
  • Take Five with Stiller & Meara (1977–1978)
  • Love Boat (TV series) | 1979, "Super Mom"; "I'll See You Again"; "April's Return", 1 episode
  • Archie Bunker's Place (cast member from 1979–1982)
  • HBO Sneak Previews (costarred with Jerry Stiller 1979–1982)
  • The Other Woman (1983, writer and cast member)
  • The Stiller and Meara Show (1986) (canceled after a few weeks, cast member and co-writer)
  • ALF (appeared in 7 episodes from 1987–1989, wrote one episode in 1989)
  • The Day They Came to Arrest the Book (1987)
  • Murder, She Wrote (1988) (guest appearance)
  • Avenue Z Afternoon (1991)
  • The Sunset Gang (1991)
  • All My Children (cast member from 1992–1999)
  • Love off Limits (1993)
  • "In the Heat of the Night" (1994) (1 episode)
  • Great Performances (The Mother (1994)
  • Jitters (1997)
  • After Play (1999, writer and cast member)
  • What Makes a Family (2001)
  • Will & Grace (2001) (Mrs. Friedman, 1 episode)
  • The Yard Sale (2002)
  • Sex and the City (2002–2004, 4 episodes as Mary Brady)
  • The King of Queens (1999, 2003–2007)
  • Oz (appeared in 2 episodes in 1999 & 2002)
  • Crooked Lines (2003)
  • Good Morning, Miami (2003, 1 episode)
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (appeared in 2 episodes in 2004 & 2012)
  • Four Kings (2006, 1 episode)
  • Mercy (2009, 1 episode)
  • Wonder Pets (2009–2010, 2 episodes)


  • "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)



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        Relation nameRelation typeBirth DateDeath dateDescription
        1Jerry StillerJerry StillerHusband08.06.192711.05.2020

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