Comedian and actor Jerry Stiller, who launched his career in the 1950s alongside his wife, Anne Meara, died Monday at the age of 92.
One of Stiller’s most memorable roles was that of the short-tempered Frank Costanza on “Seinfeld.” Although it was a supporting role that Stiller didn’t take on until the fifth season of “Seinfeld,” some of the show’s greatest moments can be attributed to Stiller.
In an interview shared by BTS Media on YouTube, Stiller said he initially turned down the role of George Costanza’s father. Eventually, though, the show’s producers talked him into it, telling him he would be married to a “a lady who screams a lot.”
Such sad news that my beloved friend, Jerry Stiller, has passed. He was perhaps the kindest man I ever had the honor to work beside. He made me laugh when I was a child and every day I was with him. A great actor, a great man, a lovely friend. #RIPJerryStiller I Love you.— jason alexander (@IJasonAlexander) May 11, 2020
At first, Stiller’s role was created to be a contrast to Estelle Costanza — more timid and quiet in nature, Stiller said. But he went off the cuff and started yelling back at Estelle on set one day, and the new Frank Costanza was born.
“It all blew up in such a wonderful way,” Stiller said in the interview. “We weren’t thinking of our next line; we were just listening to each other. And we liked each other in a very big way. We just made each other laugh. It was special.”
Here are five of Stiller’s greatest moments on “Seinfeld.”
We don’t learn about Festivus until the last season of “Seinfeld,” but the one-of-a-kind holiday is perhaps Frank Costanza’s greatest legacy on the show.
Frank conjured up the no-tinsel holiday during a Christmas season long ago, when commercialism got the best of him as he was out buying a doll for George.
“I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man,” Frank tells Kramer, his voice rising in intensity. “As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way!”
“Out of that, a new holiday was born! A Festivus for the rest of us!”
To this day, many people pull out their aluminum poles and celebrate Festivus on Dec. 23, complete with the feats of strength and the airing of grievances.
“I gotta lot of problems with you people, now you’re going to hear about them!”
No one does rage like Frank Costanza. In another season nine episode, Frank’s doctor gives him a relaxation cassette in the hopes of calming his high-strung nature.
“When my blood pressure gets too high, the man on the tape tells me to say, ‘Serenity now!’”
But of course, Frank’s way of saying the catchphrase is more like a battle cry.
Rage is the defining characteristic in Jerry Stiller’s portrayal of Frank Costanza. But, sometimes, Stiller had softer moments that were just as hilarious.
In the season 5 episode “The Fatigues,” Kramer solicits Frank’s help to cook for a Jewish singles night. But Frank — who once was “the best cook Uncle Sam ever saw” — remains haunted by an incident from his time as a cook during the Korean War, when he attempted to make three-week-old meat more palatable.
“I went too far. I overseasoned,” he tells Kramer. “I sent 16 of my own men to the latrines that night. They were just boys.”
Del Boca Vista
No one’s keeping Frank Costanza out of Del Boca Vista. And especially not Morty Seinfeld.
The rivalry between Jerry’s parents and George’s parents is a recurring theme on “Seinfeld.”
Frank has no interest in moving to Florida to live in a retirement community — that is, until Morty buys a home there and tells him there isn’t an opening available.
Frank doesn’t believe it. And he calls up Morty and gives him a piece of his mind.
“This is Frank Costanza. You think you can keep us out of Florida? We’re moving in lock, stock and barrel. We’re gonna be in the pool. We’re gonna be in the clubhouse. We’re gonna be all over that shuffleboard court. And I dare you to keep me out!”
A classic phone message
Stiller was such a master of comedic delivery that he didn’t even need to be physically in a scene to make it work.
When George takes an unapproved vacation from his job with the Yankees, his boss Mr. Steinbrenner believes him to be dead. This leads Frank to leave a frantic, hilariously straight-to-the-point message on Jerry’s answering machine: “Jerry, it’s Frank Costanza! Mr. Steinbrenner’s here, George is dead, call me back!”
During Mr. Steinbrenner’s visit to the Costanzas, Frank turns the supposed loss of his son into a chance to air his grievances about the Yankees’ decision to trade Jay Buhner.
“He had 30 home runs, and over 100 RBIs last year,” an angered Frank tells Mr. Steinbrenner. “He’s got a rocket for an arm. You don’t know what … you’re doin’!”