The Sunday Mail
Well, Arthur Spooner is no more! The global arts community last week woke up to the sad news of the passing of a true Hollywood icon — Jerry Stiller.
“I am sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes,” wrote his son and comedian Ben Stiller.
“He was a great dad and grandfather and the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years. He will be greatly missed. Love you, Dad,” further reads the tweet.
As I went through the numerous social media threads; reading and watching some of the many touching Jerry tributes, two things became abundantly clear to me.
First, Jerry was not just a funny man, he was a genius.
Born June 8, 1927, Jerry was a multi-talented performer who appeared in an assortment of movies and plays on television over his five-decade career.
His most notable contribution in film include playing Walter Matthau’s police sidekick in the thriller “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” and a cameo appearance in the two “Zoolander” movies, which were co-written, directed and starred his son Ben. Before then, he did some comedy works with his late wife, Meara.
However, he was most famous for playing the loud and abrasive father figures in the 1990s hit television shows “Seinfeld” and “King of Queens”.
Admittedly, Jerry was a little before my time, and his sitcom has never been my cup of tea, but now is not the time or place for any bashing.
His show introduced the world to the comic stylings of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and for that I will always be grateful.
There is an interesting story about the creation of Jerry’s character Frank Costanza (Senior), which I found interesting and the true mark to his comic genius.
The role of Costanza was not originally written for him, and was not meant to shine as it did.
Word has it that the screaming and shouting of his lines was something Jerry improvised on set, one day, after which it morphed into a thing. It is the same technique that Jerry used when he was handed the role of Arthur Spooner in the Kevin James sitcom “Kings of Queens” (1998-2007).
I found the Costanza story to be truly inspiring and moving, especially considering the fact that I always thought Jerry’s cadence was a result of his vast age.
By this, I mean he probably found it hard to remember all his lines, sometimes, and the screaming was in actual fact an involuntary act of joy that he did one day, after which people laughed and he decided to make it a permanent thing.
Whatever the origin, I consider myself blessed to have witnessed the comic genius of this man. Jerry proved to be the only man who turned screaming into an art form.
His chemistry with co-stars — Dreyfus and James in particular – is the stuff of legends. The world is a lot less joyful now that he is not in it.
Rest in Peace, Jerry Stiller, or as I like to call him, Arthur Spooner.