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 City, U.S.
OccupationActress, comedian
Years active1948–2015
Jerry Stiller (m. 1954)
Children2; 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.

Jerry Stiller American comedian

Gerald Isaac Stiller is an American comedian and actor. He spent many years in the comedy team Stiller and Meara with his wife, Anne Meara. He later played Frank Costanza on the NBC sitcom Seinfeld and Arthur Spooner on the CBS comedy series The King of Queens. Stiller and Meara are the parents of actor Ben Stiller, with whom Stiller co-starred in the films Zoolander, Heavyweights, Hot Pursuit, The Heartbreak Kid and Zoolander 2. Stiller is known for his angry, yelling acting style.

Stiller and Meara American comedic duo

Stiller and Meara were a husband-and-wife comedy duo that was popular primarily in the 1960s and 1970s. They made frequent appearances on television variety shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show.


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 .

The Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play is an honor presented at the Tony Awards, a ceremony established in 1947 as the Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre, to actresses for quality supporting roles in a Broadway play. The awards are named after Antoinette Perry, an American actress who died in 1946. Honors in several categories are presented at the ceremony annually by the Tony Award Productions, a joint venture of The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, to "honor the best performances and stage productions of the previous year." Originally called the Tony Award for Actress, Supporting or Featured (Dramatic), it was later changed to its current title in 1976. Before 1956, nominees' names were not made public. The change was made by the awards committee to "have a greater impact on theatregoers".

The Other Woman is a 1983 American made-for-television romantic comedy film directed by Melville Shavelson. The film was originally broadcast on CBS. It was the only television film directed by Shavelson that he did not also write.

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 lawyer. [4] An only child, she was raised in Rockville Centre, New York, on Long Island. When Anne was 11 years old, her mother committed suicide. [1]

Rockville Centre, New York Village in New York, United States

Rockville Centre is an incorporated village located in Nassau County, New York, in the United States. At the time of the 2010 census, the village had a total population of 24,023. It is in the southwestern section of the Town of Hempstead.

Long Island island in New York, United States of America

Long Island is a densely populated island that is a Suburb of New York City in the Northeastern United States, beginning at New York Harbor approximately 0.35 miles (0.56 km) from Manhattan Island and extending eastward into the Atlantic Ocean. The island comprises four counties in the U.S. state of New York. Kings and Queens Counties and Nassau County share the western third of the island, while Suffolk County occupies the eastern two-thirds. More than half of New York City's residents now live on Long Island, in Brooklyn and Queens. However, many people in the New York metropolitan area colloquially use the term Long Island to refer exclusively to Nassau and Suffolk Counties, which are mainly suburban in character, conversely employing the term the City to mean Manhattan alone.

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]

The New School university in New York City, located mostly in Greenwich Village

The New School is a private non-profit research university centered in Manhattan, New York City, located mostly in Greenwich Village. It was founded in 1919 as The New School for Social Research with an original mission dedicated to academic freedom and intellectual inquiry and a home for progressive thinkers. Since then, the school has grown to house five divisions within the university. These include the Parsons School of Design, the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School for Social Research, the Schools of Public Engagement, the College of Performing Arts which consists of the Mannes School of Music, the School of Drama, and the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. In addition, the university maintains the Parsons Paris campus and has also launched or housed a range of institutions, such as the international research institute World Policy Institute, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, the India China Institute, the Observatory on Latin America, and the Center for New York City Affairs.

HB Studio performing arts school in Greenwich Village, New York City

The HB Studio is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization offering professional training in the performing arts through classes, workshops, free lectures, theater productions, theater rentals, a theater artist residency program, as well as full-time study through their International Student Program and Uta Hagen Institute.

Uta Hagen German-born American actress and drama teacher

Uta Thyra Hagen was an American actress and theatre practitioner. She originated the role of Martha in the 1962 Broadway premiere of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee. Because Hagen was on the Hollywood blacklist, in part because of her association with Paul Robeson, her film opportunities dwindled and she focused her career on New York theatre.


Comedy team

Meara met actor-comedian Jerry Stiller in 1953, and they married in 1955, after a two-year relationship. 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]

The Second City is an improvisational comedy enterprise, best known as the historically first on-going improvisational theater troupe, continually based in Chicago. It also has training programs and live theatres in Toronto and Los Angeles. The Second City Theatre opened on December 16, 1959, and has since become one of the most influential and prolific comedy theatres in the world.

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]

Nichols and May American comedy duo

Nichols and May was a Grammy Award-winning American improvisational comedy duo act developed by Mike Nichols (1931-2014) and Elaine May. Their three comedy albums reached the Billboard Top 40 between 1959 and 1962. Many comedians have cited them as key influences in modern comedy. “You can't get any better than they were," TV host Dick Cavett remembered, "They were one of the comic meteors in the sky.”

Mike Nichols German-American television director, writer, producer and comedian

Mike Nichols was an American film and theater director, producer, actor, and comedian. He was noted for his ability to work across a range of genres and an aptitude for getting the best out of actors regardless of their experience. Nichols began his career in the 1950s with the comedy improvisational troupe The Compass Players, predecessor of The Second City, in Chicago. He then teamed up with his improv partner, Elaine May, to form the comedy duo Nichols and May. Their live improv act was a hit on Broadway, and the first of their three albums won a Grammy Award.

Elaine May American screenwriter, film director, actress, and comedian

Elaine Iva May is an American screenwriter, film director, actress, and comedienne. She made her initial impact in the 1950s from her improvisational comedy routines with Mike Nichols, performing as Nichols and May. After her duo with Nichols ended, May subsequently developed a career as a director and screenwriter.

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

Meara provided voice-overs for some short clips from silent films on Sesame Street.

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, 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. [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

Religion, marriage, family

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 1968. [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
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 (last role where she was partnered with Jerry Stiller, playing Harvey)


Sources: Film Reference; [25] [27]

1954–1955 The Greatest Gift Harriet
1954 The Philco Television Playhouse Betty BlakeEpisode: "Man on the Mountaintop"
1959 The DuPont Show of the Month Episode: "Oliver Twist"
1960 Ninotchka [28] AnnaABC TV movie
1964–1965Linus! The Lion HeartedAnimated TV series, 3 episodes
1971 Dames at Sea JoanTV adaptation of stage musical (Nov. 15, 1971) [29] [30]
1971, 1972 The Courtship of Eddie's Father Bunny Sterling / Annie Dempsey2 episodes
1971, 1973 Love, American Style 2 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
1976–1977 Rhoda Sally Gallagher7 episodes
1977–1978Take Five with Stiller & Meara
1979, 1981, 1983 Love Boat 3 episodes
1979–1982 Archie Bunker's Place Veronica Rooney52 episodes
1979–1982HBO Sneak PreviewsCostarred with Jerry Stiller
1983 The Other Woman [31] [32] Peg GilfordTV movie (CBS); 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 HalliganAppeared in 7 episodes; wrote one episode in 1989
1987–1989 CBS Schoolbreak Special Mrs. SaltersEpisode: "The Day They Came to Arrest the Book"
1988, 1993 Murder, She Wrote Winnie Tupper Banner / Mae Shaughnessy2 episodes
1990 Monsters Episode: "One Wolf's Family"
1991The General Motors Playwrights Theater Rose FinkerEpisode: "Avenue Z Afternoon"
1991 American Playhouse "The Sunset Gang" (4/5/91); Bernice Shapiro in segment "The Detective"
1992–1999 All My Children Peggy Moody5 episodes
1992–1999 CBS Schoolbreak Special Patricia LennonEpisode: "Love off Limits"
1994 In the Heat of the Night RodaEpisode: "Poor Relations"
1994 Great Performances : The Mother [33] Mrs. GeeganPBS TV movie, Oct. 24, 1994
1994 Murphy Brown Reena Bernecky2 episodes
1996 Homicide: Life on the Street Donna DiGrazi2 episodes
1997Jitters [34] motherTV Movie
1999After PlayWriter and cast member
1999, 2002 Oz Aunt Brenda O'Reily2 episodes
1999, 2003–2007 The King of Queens Mary Finnegan (1999) / Veronica Olchin (2003-07)10 episodes
2001 What Makes a Family [35] Evelyn CataldiTV movie (Lifetime)
2001 Ed Barbara GennacarroEpisode: "The Test"
2001 Will & Grace Mrs. FriedmanEpisode: "Star-Spangled Banter"
2002–2004 Sex and the City Mary Brady4 episodes
2003 Good Morning, Miami Claire's FriendEpisode: "The Slow and the Furious"
2003 Charlie Lawrence [36] Pauline Lawrence, Charlie's MotherEpisode: "If It's Not One Thing It's Your Mother"
2004–2012 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Irene Kerns / Ida Becker2 episodes
2006 Four Kings RuthEpisode: "Pilot"
2009 Mercy Estelle ThalbergEpisode: "The Last Thing I Said Was"
2009–2010 Wonder Pets! Granny Jenny / Linny's Grandmother2 episodes
2010 Gravity Mrs. TalbotEpisode: "Old People Creep Me Out"
2011Rip City [37] MyrtTVLand sitcom pilot that did not sell



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