Ben Stiller speaks of father Jerry’s last days, and how ‘Seinfeld’ changed his father’s life

(NEW YORK) — One of the highlights of the late Jerry Stiller’s more than half-century career was his role as Frank Costanza on Seinfeld.  In an interview in The New Yorker, Ben Stiller spoke about the show’s impact on his father’s life.

“I think Seinfeld really changed his life, because he was at a point in his career where the phone wasn’t really ringing,” Stiller explains. “So for someone who’s thrived on work and thrived on being funny and having an interaction with an audience, it really changed everything for him.” 

Ben explained, “He loved working with those actors, and he would prepare like he was doing Shakespeare. He would break it down…’Why am I saying this? What’s the motivation for this character?…So it came out of him putting everything into it, and not trying to be funny.” 

Regarding the hot-tempered Frank Costanza, Ben Stiller recalled a conversation with his rabbi at Jerry’s memorial service. 

“I said, ‘He never once raised his voice to me, ever, as a kid. Ever.’ So I watch that and I laugh, because I’m, like, ‘Who is that person?’ Because that really was not him, but I think he was unleashing something that I think was suppressed…it’s really like this sort of volcano coming out…”

Ben said he and his sister remained close to their father. “[J]ust due to the fact that he didn’t have a coronavirus-related illness…we were able to be with him, which I’m very, very grateful for.” 

He added, “But he went peacefully, and he had a sense of humor, for sure, until the end…He was just funny, and so he was always himself. He was almost ninety-three, and I think his body was kind of at that point where it was time.”

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