Anne Meara in 1975
September 20, 1929|
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||May 23, 2015
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
|Jerry Stiller (m. 1954; her death 2015)|
|Children||2; including Ben Stiller|
Anne Meara (September 20, 1929 - May 23, 2015) was an American actress and comedian. Along with her husband Jerry Stiller, she was one-half of a prominent 1960s comedy team, Stiller and Meara. She also was featured on stage, in television, and in numerous films, and later she became a playwright.
Meara was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of parents of Irish descent, Mary (née Dempsey) (1894-1941) and Edward Joseph Meara (1893-1980), a lawyer. An only child, she was raised in Rockville Centre, New York, on Long Island. When Anne was 12 years old, her mother committed suicide.
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", said the New York Times.
Their often improvised comedy routines brought many of their 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 also 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 Nichols and May broke up as a team in 1961, Stiller and Meara were the number-one couple comedy team by the late 1960s. And as Mike Nichols and Elaine May were not married, Stiller and Meara became the most famous married couple comedy team since Burns and Allen.
After some years honing the act, Stiller and Meara became regulars on The Ed Sullivan Show, with 36 appearances, and other TV programs, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. They released their first LP in 1963, Presenting America's New Comedy Sensation: Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara Live at The Hungry I, which became a hit. By 1970, however, they broke up their act because it was affecting their marriage: "I didn't know where the act ended and our marriage began," complained Meara in 1977. Stiller agreed, fearing, "I would have lost her as a wife."
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 as Mrs. Curry opposite Laurence Olivier in The Boys from Brazil (1978). In 1975, she starred in her own series Kate McShane on CBS, for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award, but the series was cancelled after 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. The Stiller and Meara Show, her own 1986 TV sitcom, in which Stiller played the deputy mayor of New York City and Meara portrayed his wife, a television commercial actress, was unsuccessful. From 1999 to 2007, Meara guest starred on The King of Queens (where her husband played Arthur Spooner), first as Mary Finnegan, then as Veronica Olchin (mother of Spence, who was played by Patton Oswalt). Veronica and Arthur were married in the series finale, but divorced a year later.
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 with Conchata Ferrell, AnnaLynne McCord, Minka Kelly, and B. Smith. She taught a technique and scene study class at HB Studio until her death.
In 1995, Meara wrote the comedy After-Play, which became an off-Broadway production. In her later years, she portrayed recurring roles on the television shows Sex and the City (as Mary Brady) and The King of Queens (as Veronica Olchin). During 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 featured 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.
In 2009, Meara wrote her personal life reflections in a New York-focused online blog, titled Mr. Beller's Neighborhood -- New York City Stories. In it, Meara recalled her mother's death and her childhood experiences at Catholic boarding school.
Meara was raised a Roman Catholic. She converted to Reform Judaism six years after marrying Stiller. She insisted that she did not convert at Stiller's request, explaining, "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.
Together, Meara and her husband had two children, Amy (born 1961) and Ben (born 1965).
Meara died on May 23, 2015, at her home in Manhattan at the age of 85. No exact cause was provided, but some sources cite "natural causes".
|1970||The Out-of-Towners||Woman in Police Station|
|1970||Lovers and Other Strangers||Wilma|
|1972||Irish Whiskey Rebellion||Goldie Fain-Follies Star|
|1977||Nasty Habits||Sister Geraldine|
|1978||The Boys from Brazil||Mrs. Curry|
|1984||In Our Hands||Documentary|
|1986||The Perils of P.K.|
|1987||My Little Girl||Mrs. Shopper|
|1989||That's Adequate||Charlene Lane|
|1992||Through an Open Window||24-minute short|
|1992||Highway to Hell||Medea|
|1993||So You Want to Be an Actor||Herself||Short subject|
|1994||The Search for One-Eye Jimmy||Holly Hoyt|
|1995||Kiss of Death||Bev's Mother|
|1996||The Daytrippers||Rita Malone|
|1998||The Thin Pink Line||Mrs. Langstrom|
|1999||The Diary of the Hurdy-Gurdy Man|
|1999||Brooklyn Thrill Killers||29-minute short|
|1999||A Fish in the Bathtub||Molly|
|2000||Amy Stiller's Breast||Herself||Short subject|
|2001||Keeping It Real: The Adventures of Greg Walloch||Documentary|
|2001||Get Well Soon||Linda|
|2002||Like Mike||Sister Theresa|
|2002||The Yard Sale||19-minute short|
|2003||Crooked Lines||Hard Boiled|
|2004||Chump Change||Casting Director|
|2006||Night at the Museum||Debbie|
|2007||The Shallow End of the Ocean||Voice of Alice||28-minute short|
|2008||Sex and the City: The Movie|
|2009||When the Evening Comes||Marion Corrado|
|2009||The Queen of Greenwich Village||13-minute short|
|2009||Another Harvest Moon||Ella|
|2014||Simpler Times||33-minute short with Jerry Stiller|
|2014||Planes: Fire & Rescue||Winnie||Voice (last role where she was partnered with Jerry Stiller, playing Harvey)|
|1954-1955||The Greatest Gift||Harriet|
|1954||The Philco Television Playhouse||Betty Blake||Episode: "Man on the Mountaintop"|
|1959||The DuPont Show of the Month||Episode: "Oliver Twist"|
|1964-1965||Linus! The Lion Hearted||Animated TV series, 3 episodes|
|1971||Dames at Sea||Joan||Episode: "November 15, 1971"|
|1971, 1972||The Courtship of Eddie's Father||Bunny Sterling / Annie Dempsey||2 episodes|
|1971, 1973||Love, American Style||2 episodes|
|1973||The Paul Lynde Show||Grace Dickerson||3 episodes|
|1973||The Corner Bar||Mae / Jennifer Bradley||Cast member, 7 episodes|
|1974||Medical Center||Rose Miller||Episode: "The Enemies"|
|1975||Kate McShane||Kate McShane||Cancelled after 10 episodes|
|1976-1977||Rhoda||Sally Gallagher||7 episodes|
|1977-1978||Take Five with Stiller & Meara|
|1979, 1981, 1983||Love Boat||3 episodes|
|1979-1982||Archie Bunker's Place||Veronica Rooney||52 episodes|
|1979-1982||HBO Sneak Previews||Costarred with Jerry Stiller|
|1983||The Other Woman||Peg Gilford||TV movie; Meara co-wrote the teleplay with Lila Garrett|
|1986||The Stiller and Meara Show||Canceled after a few weeks, cast member and co-writer|
|1987-1989||ALF||Dorothy Halligan||Appeared in 7 episodes; wrote one episode in 1989|
|1987-1989||CBS Schoolbreak Special||Mrs. Salters||Episode: "The Day They Came to Arrest the Book"|
|1988, 1993||Murder, She Wrote||Winnie Tupper Banner / Mae Shaughnessy||2 episodes|
|1990||Monsters||Episode: "One Wolf's Family"|
|1991||The General Motors Playwrights Theater||Rose Finker||Episode: "Avenue Z Afternoon"|
|1991||American Playhouse||"The Sunset Gang" (4/5/91); Bernice Shapiro in segment "The Detective"|
|1992-1999||All My Children||Peggy Moody||5 episodes|
|1992-1999||CBS Schoolbreak Special||Patricia Lennon||Episode: "Love off Limits"|
|1994||In the Heat of the Night||Roda||Episode: "Poor Relations"|
|1994||Great Performances: "The Mother"||TV movie, Oct. 24, 1994|
|1994||Murphy Brown||Reena Bernecky||2 episodes|
|1996||Homicide: Life on the Street||Donna DiGrazi||2 episodes|
|1999||After Play||Writer and cast member|
|1999, 2002||Oz||Aunt Brenda O'Reily||2 episodes|
|1999, 2003-2007||The King of Queens||Mary Finnegan (1999) / Veronica Olchin (2003-07)||10 episodes|
|2001||What Makes a Family||Evelyn Cataldi||TV movie|
|2001||Ed||Barbara Gennacarro||Episode: "The Test"|
|2001||Will & Grace||Mrs. Friedman||Episode: "Star-Spangled Banter"|
|2002-2004||Sex and the City||Mary Brady||4 episodes|
|2003||Good Morning, Miami||Claire's Friend||Episode: "The Slow and the Furious"|
|2003||Charlie Lawrence||Charlie's Mother||Episode: "If It's Not One Thing It's Your Mother"|
|2004-2012||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Irene Kerns / Ida Becker||2 episodes|
|2006||Four Kings||Ruth||Episode: "Pilot"|
|2009||Mercy||Estelle Thalberg||Episode: "The Last Thing I Said Was"|
|2009-2010||Wonder Pets!||Granny Jenny / Linny's Grandmother||2 episodes|
|2010||Gravity||Mrs. Talbot||Episode: "Old People Creep Me Out"|
|2011||Rip City||Myrt||TVLand sitcom pilot that did not sell|