Anne Meara

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

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

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 yearsEdit

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]

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 teamEdit

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

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]

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, videoEdit

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]

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, 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 consultingEdit

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 lifeEdit

Religion, marriage, familyEdit

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]

Year Title Role Notes
1970 The Out-of-Towners Woman in Police Station
1970 Lovers and Other Strangers Wilma
1972 Irish Whiskey Rebellion Goldie Fain-Follies Star
1977 Nasty Habits Sister Geraldine
1978 The Boys from Brazil Mrs. Curry
1980 Fame Mrs. Sherwood
1984 In Our Hands Documentary
1986 The Longshot Madge
1986 The 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
1993 So You Want to Be an Actor Herself Short 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
1999 The Diary of the Hurdy-Gurdy Man
1999 Judy Berlin Bea
1999 Brooklyn Thrill Killers 29-minute short
1999 A Fish in the Bathtub Molly
2000 Amy Stiller's Breast Herself Short subject
2000 The Independent Rita
2001 Zoolander Protestor Uncredited
2001 Keeping It Real: The Adventures of Greg Walloch Documentary
2001 Get Well Soon Linda
2002 Like Mike Sister Theresa
2002 The Yard Sale 19-minute short
2003 Crooked Lines[26] Hard Boiled
2004 Chump Change Casting Director
2006 Night at the Museum Debbie
2007 The Mirror
2007 The Shallow End of the Ocean Voice of Alice 28-minute short
2008 Sex and the City: The Movie
2009 When the Evening Comes Marion Corrado
2009 The Queen of Greenwich Village 13-minute short
2009 Another Harvest Moon Ella
2014 Simpler Times 33-minute short with Jerry Stiller
2014 Planes: Fire & Rescue Winnie Voice (last role where she was partnered with Jerry Stiller, playing Harvey)


Sources: Film Reference;[25][27]

Year Title Role Notes
1954–1955 The Greatest Gift Harriet
1954 The Philco Television Playhouse Betty Blake Episode: "Man on the Mountaintop"
1959 The DuPont Show of the Month Episode: "Oliver Twist"
1960 Ninotchka[28] Anna ABC TV movie
1964–1965 Linus! The Lion Hearted Animated TV series, 3 episodes
1971 Dames at Sea Joan TV adaptation of stage musical (Nov. 15, 1971)[29][30]
1971, 1972 The Courtship of Eddie's Father Bunny Sterling / Annie Dempsey 2 episodes
1971, 1973 Love, American Style 2 episodes
1973 The Paul Lynde Show Grace Dickerson 3 episodes
1973 The Corner Bar Mae / Jennifer Bradley Cast member, 7 episodes
1974 Medical Center Rose Miller Episode: "The Enemies"
1975 Kate McShane Kate McShane Cancelled after 10 episodes
1976–1977 Rhoda Sally Gallagher 7 episodes
1977–1978 Take Five with Stiller & Meara
1979, 1981, 1983 Love Boat 3 episodes
1979–1982 Archie Bunker's Place Veronica Rooney 52 episodes
1979–1982 HBO Sneak Previews Costarred with Jerry Stiller
1983 The Other Woman[31][32] Peg Gilford TV 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 Halligan Appeared in 7 episodes; wrote one episode in 1989
1987–1989 CBS Schoolbreak Special Mrs. Salters Episode: "The Day They Came to Arrest the Book"
1988, 1993 Murder, She Wrote Winnie Tupper Banner / Mae Shaughnessy 2 episodes
1990 Monsters Episode: "One Wolf's Family"
1991 The General Motors Playwrights Theater Rose Finker Episode: "Avenue Z Afternoon"
1991 American Playhouse "The Sunset Gang" (4/5/91); Bernice Shapiro in segment "The Detective"
1992–1999 All My Children Peggy Moody 5 episodes
1992–1999 CBS Schoolbreak Special Patricia Lennon Episode: "Love off Limits"
1994 In the Heat of the Night Roda Episode: "Poor Relations"
1994 Great Performances: The Mother[33] Mrs. Geegan PBS TV movie, Oct. 24, 1994
1994 Murphy Brown Reena Bernecky 2 episodes
1996 Homicide: Life on the Street Donna DiGrazi 2 episodes
1997 Jitters[34] mother TV Movie
1999 After Play Writer and cast member
1999, 2002 Oz Aunt Brenda O'Reily 2 episodes
1999, 2003–2007 The King of Queens Mary Finnegan (1999) / Veronica Olchin (2003-07) 10 episodes
2001 What Makes a Family[35] Evelyn Cataldi TV movie (Lifetime)
2001 Ed Barbara Gennacarro Episode: "The Test"
2001 Will & Grace Mrs. Friedman Episode: "Star-Spangled Banter"
2002–2004 Sex and the City Mary Brady 4 episodes
2003 Good Morning, Miami Claire's Friend Episode: "The Slow and the Furious"
2003 Charlie Lawrence[36] Pauline Lawrence, Charlie's Mother Episode: "If It's Not One Thing It's Your Mother"
2004–2012 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Irene Kerns / Ida Becker 2 episodes
2006 Four Kings Ruth Episode: "Pilot"
2009 Mercy Estelle Thalberg Episode: "The Last Thing I Said Was"
2009–2010 Wonder Pets! Granny Jenny / Linny's Grandmother 2 episodes
2010 Gravity Mrs. Talbot Episode: "Old People Creep Me Out"
2011 Rip City[37] Myrt TVLand sitcom pilot that did not sell




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External linksEdit