Jerry Stiller, a comedian from the Ed Sullivan days who achieved a late-career zenith when his irascible Frank Costanza on “Seinfeld” introduced the world to the fictitious holiday of Festivus, has died. He was 92.

Actor Ben Stiller, announcing the death on Twitter, said his father died of natural causes.

Stiller and his wife, Anne Meara, formed one of the most enduring comedy duos of television’s early variety-show era, appearing more than 30 times in sketches on “The Ed Sullivan Show” during the 1950s and 1960s. Their children, Ben and fellow actor Amy Stiller, carried on the family trade.

In the fifth season of NBC’s “Seinfeld,” which debuted in September 1993, Stiller joined the cast as the father of George Costanza, the hapless sidekick of Jerry Seinfeld’s eponymous character. Frank had been introduced in one episode the previous season, with another actor cast in the role. For later use in syndication, the scenes were reshot with Stiller.

In the bombastic elder Costanza, Stiller created a supporting character with a leading player’s share of memorable scenes and catchphrases.

“Seinfeld” enthusiasts know him as the co-inventor of the male bra, the exclaimer of “Serenity now!” to control his rage, and the former Army cook who left military service fluent in Korean and fearful of accidentally poisoning those who ate his food.

Christmas Alternative
Above all, he is remembered as the chief celebrant of Festivus, the made-up, noncommercial alternative to Christmas introduced in the ninth-season episode “The Strike,” which first aired on Dec. 18, 1997.

“Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son,” Stiller’s Costanza explains in the episode. “I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.”

Out of that, he said, “a new holiday was born -- a Festivus for the rest of us.”

Held each Dec. 23, it featured a plain pole instead of a tree -- “I find tinsel distracting,” Frank said -- and an “airing of grievances” at a family dinner.

First « 1 2 3 » Next