Following the death of comedian and actor Jerry Stiller on Monday, Jerry Seinfeld has opened up about what it was like with to work with the comedy legend on Seinfeld where Stiller famously portrayed the hilariously hostile Frank Costanza.
While calling into What a Joke With Papa & Fortune on SiriusXM (via Vulture), Seinfeld revealed that he was initially reluctant to cast Stiller because he just assumed the part of George Constanza’s would also be bald. Fortunately, writer Larry Charles kept pushing for Stiller, so they brought him in for an audition, and he ended up being absolutely perfect.
“He had the most amazing comedic stuff that we didn’t know if he was planning it or it just came out that way, or he couldn’t remember the line, or we didn’t know what it was,” Seinfeld said. “But we did not want to disturb it in any way. We never gave Jerry Stiller a note. I never adjusted his performance once. Whatever he did, that’s it. We’re putting that out there.”
As for Stiller’s penchant for screaming some of his lines while in character, to this day, Seinfeld has no idea how or why Stiller would pick particular moments to explode, and frankly, he didn’t care because it was funny. “I don’t know why he did it like that. I don’t know why he screamed on that line. It doesn’t matter. It’s funny. So funny. I am such a dedicated believer in if it’s funny, don’t touch it. I don’t care why it’s funny. I don’t care what the line was supposed to be. He said it that way, we’re doing it that way.”
Seinfeld isn’t just blowing smoke. Stiller truly transformed the character who was originally supposed to be more “subdued and even-keeled.” But when that approach wasn’t working while auditioning with Estelle Harris, the late actor decided to cut loose by blowing his top during a line, which left everyone in the room laughing. In that moment, Frank Costanza was born.