Anne Meara

Biography by

Red-haired actress and comedian who first found fame as part of a comedy act with her husband, Jerry Stiller.
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

Anne Meara first rose to fame as part of the successful comedy team of Stiller & Meara, before earning a reputation as a gifted and versatile actress. Meara was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 20, 1929. She developed an interest in acting in her teens, and after spending a year at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School in Manhattan when she was 18, she began landing roles in summer stock. In 1953, Meara met fellow actor Jerry Stiller after an audition that went badly; they hit it off, and were married in 1955.

The two pursued stage work, but it wasn't until they were wed that Stiller suggested they give comedy a try. Meara and Stiller briefly relocated to Chicago, where they became part of the cast of the Compass Players, an improvisational theater troupe that would later be renamed the Second City. The two started working up comedy routines that often focused on their differences -- Meara was of Irish heritage and raised Catholic, while Stiller was a Jew with roots in Poland and Galicia -- and the ups and downs of romantic relationships as well as the funny side of modern life.

Presenting America's New Comedy Sensations: Jerry Stiller & Anne Meara
The couple began playing nightclubs, and after appearing on Merv Griffin's afternoon talk show, they were spotted by Ed Sullivan. Sullivan loved their act, and booked him on his top-rated weekly variety show. Stiller & Meara would appear on The Ed Sullivan Show more than 30 times between 1960 and 1971, and the exposure helped make them one of America's most successful comedy teams. The couple released three comedy albums during their career, 1963's Presenting America's New Comedy Sensations, 1967's Ed Sullivan Presents the Last Two People in the World, and 1972's Laugh When You Like. But Laugh When You Like proved to be a swan song for Stiller & Meara, who soon broke up the act, with both parties saying it was having a negative impact on their marriage.

They would occasionally work together over the years, though, with Anne and Jerry appearing in a successful series of radio spots for Blue Nun Wine. Meara would go on to star in the TV series Kate McShane, and had recurring roles on the shows Rhoda, Archie Bunker's Place, Sex and the City, and The King of Queens (the latter of which also co-starred Jerry Stiller). Meara also appeared in theater productions on and off-Broadway, and wrote the off-Broadway production After-Play. Meara's son, actor and director Ben Stiller, sometimes cast his mother in his films, including Reality Bites, Zoolander, and A Night at the Museum. Anne Meara died in Manhattan, New York on May 23, 2015; she was 85 years old.