Jerry Stiller’s death early Monday morning was another tough 2020 blow. But even though he’s gone, Stiller’s greatness—particularly as Seinfeld’s Frank Costanza—will live forever.
Stiller is one of the great comedic actors of all-time. He may not immediately come to mind when you think of the funniest people in television history. But he earned that distinction in part by making two of the other greatest comedic actors of all-time break character completely.
jerry stiller making JLD break is still one of the funniest things ever pic.twitter.com/i711bpMcEv
— Seinfeld Current Day (@Seinfeld2000) May 11, 2020
That’s Stiller cracking up multiple-time Emmy winner Julia-Louis Dreyfus (aka Elaine Benes) and multiple-time Emmy nominee Jason Alexander (aka George Costanza) to the point of tears. His sheer absurdity and perfect delivery brought fellow comedic legends to their knees. The blooper encapsulates how ideal Stiller was for his role, and the actual scene still holds up as his funniest and most iconic moment as Frank Costanza.
Stiller’s Costanza was loud, bombastic, and completely ridiculous. Every line he delivered was a comedic declaration. His dialogue-to-laugh ratio was off the charts, and his character was so legendary he essentially recreated a tamer version of it for King of Queens. The Frank Costanza compilations on YouTube are stacked with banger after banger, from Stiller shouting “serenity now!” to explaining the intricacies of Festivus. It’s not unreasonable to argue that he’s one of the best secondary television characters ever.
Stiller lived a full life, carving out an incredible career in show business that spanned more than four decades. He married (Anne Meara) and fathered (Ben Stiller) two other legendary comedic actors, too. But to many, he’ll always be Frank Costanza, the iconic father we probably never wanted but were always happy to laugh at.