Anne Meara

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Anne Meara
Anne Meara 1975.JPG
Anne Meara in 1975
Born(1929-09-20)September 20, 1929
DiedMay 23, 2015(2015-05-23) (aged 85)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
OccupationActress, comedian
Years active1948–2015
Jerry Stiller (m. 1954)
Children2, including Ben Stiller

Anne Meara Stiller (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. Their son is actor Ben Stiller. She was also featured on stage, in television, and in numerous films, and later she became a playwright.


During her career, Meara was nominated for four Emmy Awards and a Tony Award, and she won a Writers Guild Award as a co-writer for the TV movie The Other Woman .

Early years

Meara was born in Brooklyn, New York, [1] the daughter of parents of Irish descent, [2] Mary (née Dempsey) [3] and Edward Joseph Meara, a corporate lawyer for American Standard. [4] An only child, she was raised in Rockville Centre, New York, on Long Island. When Anne was 11 years old, her mother died by suicide. [1]

When she was 18, Meara spent a year studying acting at the Dramatic Workshop at The New School and at HB Studio [5] under Uta Hagen in Manhattan. The following year, 1948, she began her career as an actress in summer stock. [1]


Comedy team

Publicity photo of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara with autograph, 1965 Jerry Stiller - Anne Meara.JPG
Publicity photo of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara with autograph, 1965

Meara met actor-comedian Jerry Stiller in 1953, and they married in 1954. 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." [1] They joined the Chicago 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. [1]

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 from the Chicago Compass Players project. "They were Nichols and May without the acid and with warmth," notes author Lawrence Epstein. [6] 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. [7] 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. [8]

After some years honing the act, Stiller and Meara became regulars on The Ed Sullivan Show , with 36 appearances, [8] 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. [8] Stiller agreed, fearing, "I would have lost her as a wife." [8]

Television, stage, film, video

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. She was nominated for an Emmy Award (1976 Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series) for the series, but it was cancelled after 10 episodes. [9] [10] [11]

Also in the 1970s, Meara provided narration for segments of the educational television series Sesame Street , consisting of scenes from silent films.

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. [12] 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.

Starting in October 2010, Meara and 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. [13] [14]

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. [15] She taught a technique and scene study class at HB Studio until her death.[ citation needed ]

Writing and consulting

In 1995, Meara wrote the comedy After-Play, which became an off-Broadway production. [1] [16] 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.[ citation needed ]

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. [17]

Personal life


Meara was born, baptised and raised a Roman Catholic. She converted to Judaism six years after marrying Stiller. [18] [19] 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." [20] They discussed how they met and their early career during a guest appearance on the TV game show What's My Line? in 1958. [21]


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, having suffered multiple strokes. [22]



Sources: TCM; [23] AllMovie; [24] Film Reference [25]

1970 The Out-of-Towners Woman in Police Station
1970 Lovers and Other Strangers Wilma
1972Irish Whiskey RebellionGoldie Fain-Follies Star
1977 Nasty Habits Sister Geraldine
1978 The Boys from Brazil Mrs. Curry
1980 Fame Mrs. Sherwood
1984In Our HandsDocumentary
1986 The Longshot Madge
1986The Perils of P.K.
1987 My Little Girl Mrs. Shopper
1989 That's Adequate Charlene Lane
1990 Awakenings Miriam
1992 Through an Open Window 24-minute short
1992 Highway to Hell Medea
1993So You Want to Be an ActorHerselfShort subject
1994 Reality Bites Louise
1994 The Search for One-Eye Jimmy Holly Hoyt
1995 Heavyweights Alice Bushkin
1995 Kiss of Death Bev's Mother
1996 The Daytrippers Rita Malone
1998 The Thin Pink Line Mrs. Langstrom
1998 Southie Mrs. Quinn
1999The Diary of the Hurdy-Gurdy Man
1999 Judy Berlin Bea
1999 Brooklyn Thrill Killers 29-minute short
1999 A Fish in the Bathtub Molly
2000Amy Stiller's BreastHerselfShort subject
2000 The Independent Rita
2001 Zoolander ProtestorUncredited
2001Keeping It Real: The Adventures of Greg Walloch Documentary
2001 Get Well Soon Linda
2002 Like Mike Sister Theresa
2002The Yard Sale19-minute short
2003Crooked Lines [26] Hard Boiled
2004 Chump Change Casting Director
2006 Night at the Museum Debbie
2007The Mirror
2007The Shallow End of the OceanVoice of Alice28-minute short
2008 Sex and the City: The Movie Mary Brady
2009When the Evening ComesMarion Corrado
2009The Queen of Greenwich Village13-minute short
2009 Another Harvest Moon Ella
2014Simpler Times33-minute short with Jerry Stiller
2014 Planes: Fire & Rescue WinnieVoice


Sources: Film Reference; [25] [27]

1954–55 The Greatest Gift Harriet219 episodes
1954 The Philco Television Playhouse Betty BlakeEpisode: "Man on the Mountaintop"
1959 The DuPont Show of the Month PerformerEpisode: "Oliver Twist"
1960 Ninotchka AnnaABC TV movie [28]
1964–65Linus! The Lion HeartedVoiceAnimated TV series, 3 episodes
1971 Dames at Sea JoanTelevision Special [29] [30]
1971-72 The Courtship of Eddie's Father Bunny Sterling
Annie Dempsey
2 episodes
1971-73 Love, American Style Various roles2 episodes
1973 The Paul Lynde Show Grace Dickerson3 episodes
1973 The Corner Bar Mae/Jennifer BradleyCast member, 7 episodes
1974Medical CenterRose MillerEpisode: "The Enemies"
1975 Kate McShane Kate McShaneCancelled after 10 episodes
1976–77 Rhoda Sally Gallagher7 episodes
1977–78Take Five with Stiller & Meara
1979-83 Love Boat Various roles3 episodes
1979–82 Archie Bunker's Place Veronica Rooney52 episodes
1979–82HBO Sneak PreviewsCostarred with Jerry Stiller
1983 The Other Woman Peg GilfordTV movie (CBS);
Meara co-wrote the teleplay with Lila Garrett
[31] [32]
1986 The Stiller and Meara Show PerformerCo-writer; Canceled after a few weeks
1987 Saturday Night Live BartenderEpisode: "Charlton Heston/Wynton Marsalis"
1987–89 ALF Dorothy Halligan7 episodes
1987–89 CBS Schoolbreak Special Mrs. SaltersEpisode: "The Day They Came to Arrest the Book"
1988-93 Murder, She Wrote Winnie Tupper Banner
Mae Shaughnessy
2 episodes
1990 Monsters GretaEpisode: "One Wolf's Family"
1991The General Motors Playwrights Theater Rose FinkerEpisode: "Avenue Z Afternoon"
1991 American Playhouse Bernice Shapiro"The Sunset Gang": segment: "The Detective"
1992–99 All My Children Peggy Moody5 episodes
1992–99 CBS Schoolbreak Special Patricia LennonEpisode: "Love off Limits"
1994 In the Heat of the Night RodaEpisode: "Poor Relations"
1994 Great Performances : The MotherMrs. GeeganPBS TV movie, Oct. 24, 1994 [33]
1994 Murphy Brown Reena Bernecky2 episodes
1996 Homicide: Life on the Street Donna DiGrazi2 episodes
1997JittersmotherTV Movie [34]
1999After PlayWriter and cast member
1999-02 Oz Aunt Brenda O'Reily2 episodes
The King of Queens Mary Finnegan (1999)
Veronica Olchin (2003–07)
10 episodes
2001 What Makes a Family Evelyn CataldiTV movie (Lifetime) [35]
2001 Ed Barbara GennacarroEpisode: "The Test"
2001 Will & Grace Mrs. FriedmanEpisode: "Star-Spangled Banter"
2002–04 Sex and the City Mary Brady4 episodes
2003 Good Morning, Miami Claire's FriendEpisode: "The Slow and the Furious"
2003 Charlie Lawrence Pauline LawrenceEpisode: "If It's Not One Thing It's Your Mother" [36]
2004–12 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Ida BeckerEpisode: "Scavenger"
Episode: "Dreams Deferred"
2006 Four Kings RuthEpisode: "Pilot"
2009 Mercy Estelle ThalbergEpisode: "The Last Thing I Said Was"
2009–10 Wonder Pets! Granny Ginny2 episodes
2010 Gravity Mrs. TalbotEpisode: "Old People Creep Me Out"
2011Rip CityMyrtTVLand sitcom pilot that did not sell [38]


1956 A Month in the Country Katina the maid Phoenix Theatre, Off-Broadway [39]
1956 The Good Woman of Setzuan Niece [40]
1957Miss LoneyheartsSick-of-it-All Music Box Theatre, Broadway [41]
1958 As You Like It Audrey Joseph Papp Public Theater, Off-Broadway [42]
1958Ulysseys in NighttownVarious rolesRooftop Theatre, Off-Broadway [43]
1971 The House of Blue Leaves Bunny FlingusTruck and Warehouse Theatre, Off-Broadway [44]
1984SpookhousePerformerPlayhouse 91, Off-Broadway [45]
1984 A... My Name Is Alice Writer Top of the Gate, Off-Broadway [46]
1988 Romeo and Juliet Nurse Joseph Papp Public Theater, Off-Broadway [47]
1988 Eastern Standard May Logan John Golden Theatre, Broadway [48]
1993 Anna Christie Marthy Owen Center Stage Right, Broadway [49]
1995After-PlayTerry Guteman
Theatre Four, Broadway [50]
2000Down the Garden PathsPlaywright Minetta Lane Theatre, Off-Broadway [51]
2011 Love, Loss and What I Wore Performer Westside Theatre, Off-Broadway [52]


Awards and Nominations

YearAwardCategoryNominated workResultRef.
1976 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress - Television Rhoda Nominated [53]
1976 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Kate McShane Nominated
1981 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Archie Bunker's Place Nominated
1982 Nominated
1997 Guest Actress in a Drama Series Homicide: Life on the Street Nominated
1984 Writers Guild of America Awards Original/Adapted Comedy Anthology The Other WomanWon
1993 Tony Awards Best Featured Actress in a Play Anna Christie Nominated [54]
1996 Outer Critics Circle Award John Gassner AwardAfter-PlayWon

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