Anne Meara

Anne Meara
Anne Meara 1975.JPG
Meara in 1975
Anne Therese Meara

(1929-09-20)September 20, 1929
DiedMay 23, 2015(2015-05-23) (aged 85)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
OccupationActress, comedian
Years active1948–2015
(m. 1954)
ChildrenAmy Stiller, Ben Stiller

Anne Meara Stiller (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 was also featured on stage, in television, and in numerous films, and later she became a playwright.

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 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 corporate lawyer for American Standard.[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 team

Publicity photo of Meara and Jerry Stiller, 1965

Meara met actor-comedian Jerry Stiller in 1953, and they married in 1954. 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, 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. She was nominated for an Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1976, however, the show 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 in an episode of The Corner Bar, 1973

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.

Starting in October 2010, Meara and 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


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
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


Sources: Film Reference;[25][27]

Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1954–55 The Greatest Gift Harriet 219 episodes
1954 The Philco Television Playhouse Betty Blake Episode: "Man on the Mountaintop"
1959 The DuPont Show of the Month Performer Episode: "Oliver Twist"
1960 Ninotchka Anna ABC TV movie [28]
1964–65 Linus! The Lion Hearted Voice Animated TV series, 3 episodes
1971 Dames at Sea Joan Television Special [29][30]
1971-72 The Courtship of Eddie's Father Bunny Sterling
Annie Dempsey
2 episodes
1971-73 Love, American Style Various roles 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
1976–77 Rhoda Sally Gallagher 7 episodes
1977–78 Take Five with Stiller & Meara
1979-83 Love Boat Various roles 3 episodes
1979–82 Archie Bunker's Place Veronica Rooney 52 episodes
1979–82 HBO Sneak Previews Costarred with Jerry Stiller
1983 The Other Woman Peg Gilford TV movie (CBS);
Meara co-wrote the teleplay with Lila Garrett
1986 The Stiller and Meara Show Performer Co-writer; Canceled after a few weeks
1987 Saturday Night Live Bartender Episode: "Charlton Heston/Wynton Marsalis"
1987–89 ALF Dorothy Halligan 7 episodes
1987–89 CBS Schoolbreak Special Mrs. Salters Episode: "The Day They Came to Arrest the Book"
1988-93 Murder, She Wrote Winnie Tupper Banner
Mae Shaughnessy
2 episodes
1990 Monsters Greta Episode: "One Wolf's Family"
1991 The General Motors Playwrights Theater Rose Finker Episode: "Avenue Z Afternoon"
1991 American Playhouse Bernice Shapiro "The Sunset Gang": segment: "The Detective"
1992–99 All My Children Peggy Moody 5 episodes
1992–99 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 Mrs. Geegan PBS TV movie, Oct. 24, 1994 [33]
1994 Murphy Brown Reena Bernecky 2 episodes
1996 Homicide: Life on the Street Donna DiGrazi 2 episodes
1997 Jitters mother TV Movie [34]
1999 After Play Writer and cast member
1999-02 Oz Aunt Brenda O'Reily 2 episodes
The King of Queens Mary Finnegan (1999)
Veronica Olchin (2003–07)
10 episodes
2001 What Makes a Family Evelyn Cataldi TV movie (Lifetime) [35]
2001 Ed Barbara Gennacarro Episode: "The Test"
2001 Will & Grace Mrs. Friedman Episode: "Star-Spangled Banter"
2002–04 Sex and the City Mary Brady 4 episodes
2003 Good Morning, Miami Claire's Friend Episode: "The Slow and the Furious"
2003 Charlie Lawrence Pauline Lawrence Episode: "If It's Not One Thing It's Your Mother" [36]
2004–12 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Ida Becker Episode: "Scavenger"
Episode: "Dreams Deferred"
2006 Four Kings Ruth Episode: "Pilot"
2009 Mercy Estelle Thalberg Episode: "The Last Thing I Said Was"
2009–10 Wonder Pets! Granny Ginny 2 episodes
2010 Gravity Mrs. Talbot Episode: "Old People Creep Me Out"
2011 Rip City Myrt TVLand sitcom pilot that did not sell [38]


Year Title Credit(s) Notes Ref.
1956 A Month in the Country Katina the maid Phoenix Theatre, Off-Broadway [39]
1956 The Good Woman of Setzuan Niece [40]
1957 Miss Loneyhearts Sick-of-it-All Music Box Theatre, Broadway [41]
1958 As You Like It Audrey Joseph Papp Public Theater, Off-Broadway [42]
1958 Ulysseys in Nighttown Various roles Rooftop Theatre, Off-Broadway [43]
1971 The House of Blue Leaves Bunny Flingus Truck and Warehouse Theatre, Off-Broadway [44]
1984 Spookhouse Performer Playhouse 91, Off-Broadway [45]
1984 A... My Name Is Alice Writer Top of the Gate, Off-Broadway [46]
1988 Romeo and Juliet Nurse Joseph Papp Public Theater, Off-Broadway [47]
1988 Eastern Standard May Logan John Golden Theatre, Broadway [48]
1993 Anna Christie Marthy Owen Center Stage Right, Broadway [49]
1995 After-Play Terry Guteman
Theatre Four, Broadway [50]
2000 Down the Garden Paths Playwright Minetta Lane Theatre, Off-Broadway [51]
2011 Love, Loss and What I Wore Performer Westside Theatre, Off-Broadway [52]


Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1976 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress - Television Rhoda Nominated [53]
1976 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Kate McShane Nominated
1981 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Archie Bunker's Place Nominated
1982 Nominated
1997 Guest Actress in a Drama Series Homicide: Life on the Street Nominated
1984 Writers Guild of America Awards Original/Adapted Comedy Anthology The Other Woman Won
1993 Tony Awards Best Featured Actress in a Play Anna Christie Nominated [54]
1996 Outer Critics Circle Award John Gassner Award After-Play Won
  • On February 9, 2007 Meara and Jerry Stiller received stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7018 Hollywood Blvd.


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  2. ^ Bloom, Nate (March 17, 2009). "A Pint of Guinness, A Cup of Manischevitz: Some Irish/Jewish Connections". Archived from the original on July 6, 2015. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
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  5. ^ HB Studio Alumni
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  10. ^ Kate McShane TV Guide
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  12. ^ "Mrs. Sherwood's Classroom in Fame Archived March 10, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, video clip
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  16. ^ "After-Play" script, Dramatists Play Service (1996)
  17. ^ Meara, Anne (June 8, 2009). "Old Nuns".
  18. ^ O'Toole, Lesley (December 22, 2006). "Ben Stiller: 'Doing Comedy Is Scary'". The Independent. Archived from the original on January 8, 2007. Retrieved December 22, 2006.
  19. ^ "LA Times". Retrieved April 30, 2018.
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  21. ^ "Stiller & Meara on "What's My Line?" (1968) Archived May 26, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, video
  22. ^ "Actress and Comedian Anne Meara, Mother of Ben Stiller, Dies at 85". Variety. May 24, 2015. Archived from the original on May 25, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2015.
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  24. ^ "Filmography", retrieved August 14, 2018
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  28. ^ Ninotchka, retrieved August 16, 2018
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  30. ^ " Dames at Sea Bell System Family theatre presents Ann Margret, Dames at Sea ", retrieved August 15, 2018
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  32. ^ " 'The Other Woman' Overview", retrieved August 17, 2018
  33. ^ O'Connor, John J. "Television Review: Nostalgia For Drama Of TV Past" The New York Times, October 24, 1994
  34. ^ Kelleher, Terry. "Picks and Pans Review: 'Jitters'" People, May 5, 1997
  35. ^ Wertheimer, Ron. "Television Review; In This Fight Over Custody, Parents Loved Each Other" The New York Times, January 22, 2001
  36. ^ " 'Charlie Lawrence' Cast", retrieved August 17, 2018
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  38. ^ "Fran Drescher, Rita Moreno, Donald Faison, Wayne Knight, Kristen Johnston, Christine Taylor and Sherri Shepherd Among Hollywood Stars Signed for TV Land Pilots Taping February 2011", February 8, 2011
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  50. ^ After-Play, retrieved August 14, 2018
  51. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "Review. Down the Garden Paths " Variety, November 19, 2000
  52. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Conchata Ferrell, Anne Meara Explore Love, Loss... Off-Broadway, Starting April 27" Playbill, April 27, 2011
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  54. ^ "Anne Meara". Retrieved May 11, 2020.

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