It was the comic timing and physical genius of Jerry Stiller who elevated that secondary character to legendary status after taking over the role from John Randolph.
The actor’s son, Ben Stiller, who inherited the talent for comedy, announced that his father had died over the weekend at the age of 92.
Frank Costanza and his wife, Estelle, perfected the bickering couple through scenes including the celebration of Frank’s alternative Christmas, known as the “Festivus for the Rest of Us,” which included the Costanza patriarch listing his “Airing of the Grievances,” which were really his personal beefs, with all of the Seinfeld characters sitting around their modest kitchen table.
Though they did not appear in every episode of the long-running sitcom, the Costanzas embodied the overbearing, intrusive parents of their underachiever son George, played by Jason Alexander.
Notable scenes like the one where Frank insisted during dinner that his wife retrieve one of her bras for George to examine before interviewing with a lingerie firm have become iconic to a generation of Seinfeld fans.
Another iconic moment saw Estelle walk in on Frank trying on one of her bras as a prototype for the male brassiere, which he and Kramer, played by Michael Richards, planned to sell as a Bro or Manzier to men suffering with “man boob” issues. It was one of the greatest physical comedy scenes of the modern era.
Costanza’s character was a failed Army chef whose disastrous experience causing food poisoning in the barracks was a common recurring theme in which he flashed back to vomiting troops or comically swiped away full plates of food from the Seinfeld regulars with hysterical finesse.
At one point, he was advised to quietly utter the mantra “serenity now” to conquer rising stress whenever he was about to lose his temper. The climax of Frank yelling “Serenity now!” at the top of his lungs was as hilarious as it was inevitable.
Stiller started his career as half of the comedy duo “Stiller and Meara” with his wife, Anne Meara. They made regular performances on the Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960s and ’70s.
Stiller won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his performances on Seinfeld in 1997 and took home the American Comedy Award for Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series in 1998.
After Seinfeld ended in 1998, Stiller went on to play another grumpy father named Arthur Spooner on the The King of Queens from 1998 to 2007.
Zoolander and There’s Something About Mary star Ben Stiller announced his father’s death from natural causes on Twitter. “I’m sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes. 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.”