Entertainment & Arts

Comedian Anne Meara, mother of Ben Stiller, dies at 85

Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara in 2012 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara formed their comedy partnership in the 1950s

Ben Stiller has paid tribute to his mother, the actress and comedian Anne Meara, who has died aged 85.

Meara, who launched a standup career with her husband Jerry Stiller in the 1950s, died on Saturday.

A family statement at the weekend said: "The two were married for 61 years and worked together almost as long."

It said her memory would live on "in the hearts" of her family and and "the millions she entertained as an actress, writer and comedienne".

On Monday, Stiller thanked fans on Twitter for the "kind words" about his mother.

Calling her "an extraordinary person", he said the family felt "so lucky" to have had her in their lives.

Born in Brooklyn in 1929, Meara met Jerry Stiller when she was an aspiring 23-year-old actress at a New York casting call in 1953.

"I took her out for coffee," Stiller recalled in an interview for The Associated Press. "She seemed to sense I had no money, so she just ordered coffee. Then she took all the silverware. I picked up her check for 10 cents and thought 'This is a girl I'd like to hang out with.'"

They married a few months later and began their comedy act, which toured the United States.

In 1963, Stiller and Meara were booked onto The Ed Sullivan Show, a top rated variety programme on CBS, which led to a further 35 appearances.

Sullivan "scared the stuff out of me," Meara recalled in a 2010 interview.

"I wasn't the only one. There were international favourites from all over the world throwing up in the wings - singers and tenors and guys who spin plates. It was live. We were scared!"

Although the show brought them stardom, the double act started to work separately in the 1970s.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ben Stiller (left) with his wife, actress Christine Taylor (centre), and his mother Anne Meara

Meara pursued her acting career and appeared in such films as The Out-of-Towners, Fame, and Awakenings.

Her son Ben Stiller directed her in 1994's Reality Bites. She also shared screen-time with him in 2006's Night at the Museum.

Her TV roles included Murphy Brown and Sex and the City; and she earned several Emmy nominations, including two for her supporting role on Archie Bunker's Place and her role in 1970s legal drama Kate McShane.

Meara also appeared in the theatre, making her off-Broadway debut in 1971 in John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves.

In 2007 Meara and Stiller were given a joint star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Three years later, the couple reunited on-screen for a web-based chat show shot in their home in Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Meara is survived by her husband, daughter Amy, son Ben, and her grandchildren, her family said.

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