Cover image for Married to laughter : a love story featuring Anne Meara
Married to laughter : a love story featuring Anne Meara
Stiller, Jerry.
Personal Author:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
New York : Random House Large Print, [2000]

Physical Description:
554 pages (large print) ; 25 cm
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Format :


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PN2287.S697 A3 2000B Adult Large Print Large Print

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Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara began performing together in coffehouses in Greenwich Village in the 1960's, and then as frequent guests on The Ed Sullivan Show. They based their standup characters on exaggerated vrsions of themselves, especially in the irrepressible commercials for Blue Nun wine. Offstage they raised two children, Amy and Ben. After years of memorable work on stage and in radio, television, and films, Jerry Stiller found himself wondering what had happened to his once-flourishing career. Then a call came from Seinfeld, a television show he'd never watched. On Seinfeld he created the unforgettable character of Frank Costanza, which won him an Emmy nomination and an American Comedy Award. Meanwhile, Anne Meara became an acclaimed Off-Broadway playwright. MARRIED TO LAUGHTER is a love story about two showbiz-minded people who fell in love, discovered that they fell in love, discovered that they were their own greatest roles, enjoyed thriving careers that diverged and converged many times, and who take complete satisfaction form their individual accomplishments while maintaining a dedicated marriage. With a wealth of anecdotes about other famous actors and comedians, this is a funny and tender narrative, told as only Jerry Stiller could.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Stiller is probably best known as George Costanza's father on Seinfeld, or as actor Ben Stiller's real-life father. But before he was on sitcoms, Stiller was part of a talented stand-up duo, the other half of whom was (and is) his wife, Anne Meara. In life as on stage, Stiller and Meara are an odd couple. She's tall, he's short; he's Jewish, she's Irish. And as we learn in this heartfelt, sometimes painful, mostly sweet memoir, she is pretty solid, and he is pretty neurotic. Stiller tells his story with the wit and pathos you would expect from an actor/comedian. Without spending too much time on any of the details, he outlines his life, both personal and professional. Although there are some good show-business stories here, the book is really about Stiller himself: his doubts and fears (after 40 years together, he was still wondering whether he and Anne would stay married); his career insecurities; and the joy he finally can acknowledge when he struggles with a role and gets it right or realizes how much he loves his family. A moving portrait of a Hollywood survivor. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Longtime comedic actor Stiller, noted for his performances with wife Anne Meara and for his turn as the combustible Frank Costanza on Seinfeld, offers engaging reflections on his life and work, plus anecdotes about a range of showbiz personages. Stiller's comedic impulses stem from childhood in poor Jewish neighborhoods in New York, where comedian Eddie Cantor's TV appearances could bring peace to Stiller's fractious parents. While Stiller doesn't overanalyze himself, he acknowledges a need for audience approval, something his more relaxed wife doesn't need as desperately. When the couple met, both were struggling actors, but Meara charmed Stiller with her spontaneous wit and optimism: she proposed to him. Striving to be "in the moment" and to bond with their audiences, the two didn't find instant success as a duo, though later their performances in nightclubs and on the Ed Sullivan show and their commercials for Blue Nun wine (the first successful comedic commercials) brought them celebrity. Still, an actor's path is unpredictable. Stiller found a second wind in the past decade when he was called to play Frank Costanza. "I can't do this guy subdued," Stiller declared to Seinfeld creator Larry David; his years of experience paid off in a memorable character that earned Stiller an Emmy nomination. Stiller says he's still learning about himself through his acting. Though he works less often with his wife, the two have strengthened their marriage by finding new curiosity in each other. Some readers might want to learn more about some aspects of Stiller's life, like his showbiz children (Amy and Ben), but he comes off as an endearing fellow who deserves his success. Agent, Peter Matson. 100,000 first printing. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Stiller's long career has brought laughter to two generations of Americans. Known most recently for his role as Frank Costanza in the long-running comedy Seinfeld, in the 1960s he and his wife, Anne Meara, were noted stand-up comedians who performed on the Ed Sullivan Show three dozen times. This memoir begins at the beginning: Stiller's childhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the Depression. He vividly remembers seeing Eddie Cantor's vaudeville performances, which inspired him to become an actor. After army service in World War II, Stiller went to Syracuse University where he majored in theater. The young actor returned to New York City and met aspiring actress Meara. Though theirs was an unlikely match he was a Polish Jew from the city, she was an Irish Catholic from Long Island they not only fell in love but have stayed in love for more than 40 years. The author reads his own work, which will be popular in public library collections. Nann Blaine Hilyard, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1 Anne In 1953, I was in New York City looking for work. I was making rounds with Bea Mortensen, a tall, lovely, redheaded actress. I thought we'd be terrific doing an act together. That wasn't all I wanted to do with Bea. She sensed that my hanging out with her was not solely in hope of theatrical employment, but I never made an overt pass and did everything to disguise my biological feelings. We'd walk down Broadway holding hands, she in two-inch heels and me in my Keds, sending out a message: "See, we're just two crazy show-business people." Bea's making rounds with me must have hinged on some bizarre expectation of hers that we'd actually strike it rich one day. On this spring afternoon we arrived at a casting cattle call in an agent's office. The place was full of chattering hopefuls seeking employment in a summer-stock company. As we waited our turn, Bea recognized a friend of hers, a tall girl, though not quite Bea's height, with auburn hair and an angelic face. They got talking just as the receptionist announced that the agent would start seeing people. I was sandwiched between them. The conversation proceeded as if I weren't there. "By the way, this is Jerry," Bea said. "Hi," I said, extending my hand in a kind of manly way. The angel-faced girl shook it. She looked sort of puritanical and smelled nice. She was wearing Mary Chess perfume, I later learned. "Anne Meara," the secretary called. "That's me," the girl said. "I already know I'm too tall to play the ingenue and too young to be a character woman." She's very self-demeaning, I thought. "Okay, wish me luck," she said, disappearing into the inner office. Bea looked at me soulfully and said, "That's a nice girl." I knew instantly that this was the kiss-off. "You'll like her," Bea said. "She's a very sweet girl." I felt like a baseball card being traded. Before I could fully comprehend that Bea's and my relationship had ended, the agent's door flew open and Anne Meara, in tears, burst back into the room. "What happened?" everyone asked. "He chased me. He chased me all around the desk," she said. Her face was flushed. "I think I'm going back to Rockville Centre. My father told me New York was a tough place." "Who's next?" the secretary said. "Who's Jerry Stiller?" "I'm next," I said. I'd seen this agent on many occasions, and he'd always paid me the courtesy of saying hello. His walls were full of pictures of stars he claimed he handled. He wore a houndstooth sports jacket and always seemed to be on vacation. He was basically harmless, but he also loved to play practical jokes on me, Once he asked me to light his cigar. I hesitated, "Light it," he snapped. When I struck the match, it flared brightly. He went into hysterical laughter. Today he asked, "What have you been up to these days?" Suddenly, acting heroic, I asked, "Why did you chase that girl around the desk?" "Because I liked her," he replied with great aplomb. "And I like you too. Now it's your turn." He started chasing me around the room, laughing uproariously as I ran for the door. "Nothing for you this time," he said, as I exited into the waiting room, where Anne was still recovering. Bea indicated none too subtly that she herself had an appointment and suggested that perhaps I'd like to take Anne for a cup of coffee to help her recover her faculties. I looked at Bea sheepishly, still trying to fathom why I was being ditched. "See you again sometime," Bea said. I asked Anne if she would like a cup of coffee, and she said yes. We walked to Longley's Cafeteria. I had barely enough money on me to pay for anything more than coffee and cake. "I could bring him up on charges," Anne said as I maneuvered her past the hot-food counter and toward the coffee machine. "Are you going to have coffee?" I asked. "Yes." "Nothing else?" I said prayerfully. "Nothing else." We sat down. I really didn't know why I was with her, except that it was the way the afternoon was unfolding. "Have you ever been bothered like that before?" I asked. "Once," she said. "A guy started following me down Broadway. He must've known I was an actress. I had a portfolio and was wearing makeup. When he got real close, he started saying dirty words, I started to limp, hoping it would turn him off. 'Keep it up, sweetheart,' he said. 'I love women with afflictions." I laughed. She seemed so unshowbusinessy. She's probably untalented, I thought. She isn't trying to prove anything because there's nothing to prove. "How long have you known Bea?" I asked. "She was in love with an actor I worked with at Smithtown. How do you know her?" Anne asked. "Oh, I was thinking of doing a comedy act, and she was very tall and I thought it would be kind of funny, the two of us." "Are you a comedian?" she asked, as if she were talking about plumbing. "Yes," I said, "I guess you can call it that." "I hate comedians," she said. "They do such awful things." "Like what?" "Oh, I went out with one once. He played the Cops. He took me home and tried to attack me when I wouldn't kiss him good-night. He had terrible teeth. Then he started to cry. I felt sorry for him. He was a grown man." "Well, I'm working on an act," I said. "I did it in college, up at Syracuse." I felt like an athlete flexing his muscles. "Maybe you can come and see me sometime." "Where?" she asked. I admitted I wasn't performing anyplace just then. "Well, I've got to go," she said. "Let me take your check," I said like John D. Rockefeller. "No," she said. "I only had coffee. I'll take care of it, but I could use some silverware." "What?" I asked. "Just grab a knife and a fork. I'll take some spoons. I live down in the Village with two roommates, and they lose silverware." I quickly slipped a fork into my jacket pocket. I've just become her accomplice in crime, I told myself. What am I getting myself into, hanging out with New York actresses? They're all crazy, I'm a normal guy. Is this what I have to do to go to bed with someone? She's committing a crime. I wanted to escape, and yet I wanted to prove I wasn't afraid. "Well, listen," I told her as we hit the street. "I hope we meet again sometime. Here's your fork." "Thanks," she said, and she disappeared into the Sixth Avenue subway. Copyright © 2000 by Jerry Stiller Excerpted from Married to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara by Jerry Stiller All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.