Ben Stiller confirmed on Monday his father, iconic comedian Jerry, had died of natural causes

By Alexia Fernandez
May 12, 2020 04:27 PM
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Ben Stiller's parents may have been famous but family always came first.

The actor, 54, confirmed his father, Jerry's, death from natural causes on Monday in a tweet. Jerry was 92 and had lived a full life as a husband to actress Anne Meara, a father to son Ben and daughter Amy, and in his work over countless TV shows and movies. The star — famous for playing George Costanza’s dad in Seinfeld — lost his wife in 2015 after she had suffered multiple strokes.

The father and son had a close bond since Ben's infancy, something the Meet the Parents star told PEOPLE in October 2000 as his father's autobiography, Married to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara, debuted.

"It wasn't the typical family setup," Ben said at the time. "We got to stay up late and go to TV studios. It was like this fun fantasyland."

He added, "He has great advice. He's very sensitive."

Jerry Stiller with his young son, Ben, in 1978
| Credit: Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Ben opened up a bit more on his life growing up in February 1990, saying his childhood "wasn't, like, coat hangers in the closet or anything."

"I grew up with people saying hello to my parents on the street every day," he told PEOPLE at the time. "Deep down, I've always wanted people to say hello to me, too."

Having parents who worked in Hollywood opened up doors to Ben, who had always dreamed of being a director. In an interview with Lufthansa Magazine, he admitted he wasn’t always sure if his life would place him on that path.

“I naturally recall feeling unsure at times,” he said. “As a teenager, the idea of leaving home and striking out on my own made me uneasy.”

He continued, “But the most important experience is always that of receiving love and encouragement as a child. Nothing was as important in my development as my family’s support.”

Ben and Jerry Stiller on the set of Zoolander
| Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount/Shutterstock

Ben also said he learned “dedication and passion for my work” from his parents. “You didn’t stand a chance in our family” if you took yourself too seriously, he said.

“My parents could smell self-important bulls— a mile off,” he added. “Another piece of advice they gave me was never to change who you are just to please other people.”

In June 2012, Ben and Amy honored their parents, Jerry and Meara, with the Made in New York Award.

“Show business was important but family always came first,” Ben said during their speech. “That was the most important thing.”

Ben Stiller and Jerry Stiller
| Credit: Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic

He also cracked a few jokes, saying, "No matter what, whenever there was a tough day at school, whenever we came home from school there’d always be two people there to greet us: our doorman and our super.” 

Ben continued, "At my bar mitzvah, dad you were incredible at my bar mitzvah, I remember you learned over and said, 'Today, you become a man. Also, there’s a lot of industry here, don’t bomb.'"

He concluded his speech with a heartfelt dedication to them both.

"Dad, we love you. You’ve had an incredible career and you keep going and going and more than anything is the example you’ve set for us and these people," he said. "And that’s such a huge thing to live up to because you’re the most loved people I know. We love you very, very much."