Actress Anne Meara, Mother of Ben Stiller, Dies at 85

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NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14: Anne Meara attends Roundabout Theater Company's 2011 Spring Gala at Roseland Ballroom on March 14, 2011 in New York City. (Courtesy: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

Comedy great Anne Meara, one half of the comedy team “Stiller & Meara,” died at 85 on Saturday, her family said.

Meara and her husband, Jerry Stiller, were married for 61 years and worked together almost as long, the family said in a statement. In addition to her husband, she is survived by her children, comic actor Ben Stiller, daughter Amy Stiller and grandchildren.

“Anne’s memory lives on in the hearts of daughter Amy, son Ben, her grandchildren, her extended family and friends, and the millions she entertained as an actress, writer and comedienne,” the family statement said.

Meara was born in 1929 in Brooklyn, New York. In his autobiography, “Married to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara,” Jerry Stiller describes meeting his future wife at a casting call in 1953.

“She looked sort of puritanical and smelled nice,” he said of the “angel-faced” aspiring actress.

They eventually teamed up for a comedy act in New York’s Greenwich Village coffeehouses, playing exaggerated versions of themselves: self-deprecating, kvetching New Yorkers. Before long, they were performing as comedy team “Stiller & Meara” on popular TV shows of the 1960s including “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

They became become regulars on the game show circuit appearing on shows such as “Hollywood Squares” and “$25,000 Pyramid” before Meara landed the role of Sally Gallagher on the TV series “Rhoda.”

Meara went on to play hundreds of TV roles in the 1980s and 1990s, appearing in hit shows from “The Love Boat” to “ALF” to “Sex and the City.”

Tributes poured in from fans and celebrities spanning generations, from Patty Duke to Sandra Bernhard.

“My heart and prayers go out to Jerry and Ben for the loss of their beloved Anne Meara,” Duke said.