These are sad times. We are constantly bombarded with bad news. So many people have passed away in the community and we are attending Zoom funerals on a regular basis.
However, there was one passing that particularly moved me this week, that of Jerry Stiller, the comedian and father of Hollywood actor Ben Stiller.
At 92, he had a pretty good innings, as no one in the Stiller house would have said since I doubt they know much about cricket.
But if I’m being honest, my sadness was not so much for Jerry Stiller the man but more because this news meant that Frank Costanza had packed up his cabana wear and finally shuffled off to the great Floridian retirement community in the sky.
If you’re not aware who Frank Costanza is, you may want to stop reading this article now. But if, like me, you’re a big fan of Seinfeld — for my money TV’s greatest sitcom (sorry fans of Up the Elephant and Round The Castle) — then you will quite probably have had similar feelings when you read the news.
Frank Costanza isn’t even one of the main players. He is George’s father and is no more than a recurring character. In fact, he was only in 30 of the 180 episodes of Seinfeld. I am not so good at maths, as the children I am trying to homeschool will tell you, but even I can work out that means he was in just one fifth (one sixth actually — Ashley’s nine year old son) of the episodes. The first time the character appears he was even played by someone else.
But to me, Jerry Stiller’s Frank Costanza was the absolute best thing in Seinfeld.
Do I need to prove it? This is the man who introduced most of us to ‘Festivus’; whose move with the ladies was to stop short; who created ‘the manssiere’ (it’s a bra for men, and shouldn’t be called ‘the bro’); who still uses the word prophylactic; who eats a bowl of kasha in bed; and ends up with a pasta model of Jerry Seinfeld stuck up his rectum necessitating a visit to ‘the Assman’.
In truth I shouldn’t be writing about Frank Costanza in the JC because while Jerry Stiller was Jewish, incredibly, Frank Costanza wasn’t. We learn in one episode that he was a member of the Catholic group The Knights of Columbus.
But I think there’s an argument to be made that Frank Costanza is the most Jewish character ever seen on TV. It’s probably only a Jew from New York who would go to a dinner party with the gift of a marble rye from Schnitzer’s Bakery. But it’s definitely only a Jew who would be so petty as to steal it back when the hosts forget to serve it.
So farewell Frank and the next time my children disturb me trying to work during lockdown, I will remember you by simply shouting at the top of my voice, “Serenity now!!!”
Ashley Blaker is currently performing online shows for synagogues, schools, yeshivas and charities on a pay-what-you-like basis. ‘Strictly Unorthodox’, his first Off-Broadway show, and ‘Prophet Sharing’, his acclaimed double-act with Muslim comedian Imran Yusuf, are both available on YouTube. His ‘Coronavirus Isolation Comedy Book’ can be downloaded free via his website.