Long before he became George Costanza's ranting father on television's "Seinfeld," comedian-actor Jerry Stiller spent years trudging across the country doing stock theatre and then in the comedy trenches with wife Anne. By the mid-1960s, Stiller and Meara were famous enough to write their own ticket as a club act and radio commercial team, but each would be called back to the theatre more than once. Along the way, they also had kids (both actors): Amy and Ben, the latter a movie star in his own right.
The full story of Stiller's rise from Brooklyn and Lower East Side poverty to discovering the stage and his ability to make people laugh, is now being told in Stiller's new autobiography, "Married to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara." Released by Simon & Schuster Sept. 6, the volume also includes more than two dozen photographs, including a cast photo from Hurlyburly (including Stiller, William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver) and a shot of Meara in the Public Theater's Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Tidbits from the bio include the fact that After-Play wasn't Anne Meara's first play. Several years ago, Mike Nichols expressed serious interest in directing her comedy-drama Victims, but the project never came to fruition. Acting students will also warm to the relationship Stiller developed with one of his professors. For years, Stiller would keep his mentor apprised of his career and aesthetic choices via a pen-pal correspondence that lasted until the teacher's death. Animal lovers will also get a kick out of the tale of the mangy mutt chosen to play Crab when Stiller was doing Two Gentlemen Of Verona.
The 336 page volume sells for $25. Stiller will be at the Lincoln Triangle Barnes & Noble in NYC, Sept. 8 at 7 PM, to discuss and autograph the book. -- By David Lefkowitz