Ben Stiller has brought laughter to the world over the past three decades as the celebrated director and actor responsible for countless blockbusting comedy movies, including There’s Something About Mary, Zoolander, Tropic Thunder and the Meet the Parents franchise. While his talent and success are commendable, Stiller’s parents, Jerry and Anne, who formed the comedy duo, Stiller and Meara, gave their son a running start as a comedy actor.
As with any loving parents, Jerry and Anne sent their post-pubescent offspring into the world with hopes they would find their own way to success learning from their own mistakes and staying out of trouble where possible.
The comedy duo had two children, Amy Stiller and her younger brother Ben. As part of a New York City family, born and bred, Stiller grew used to the bright lights and tall buildings from a young age and was entrusted to meet his friends across the Big Apple in his teen years. Fortunately, he survived the dangers of the busy streets, but there was one poignant, now-comical memory that he won’t forget in a hurry.
In the 2020 Netflix original series, Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics, Stiller appeared alongside the likes of Sting, A$AP Rocky, Sarah Silverman, Carrie Fisher and Anthony Bourdain to describe his harrowing, life-changing experience with psychedelic drugs.
In 1982, aged just 16, Stiller decided to take two tabs of LSD with a friend outside the Museum of Natural History on Upper West Side the night before Thanksgiving.
“I was so not ready to take acid. It was a huge mistake,” Stiller said, chuckling. “In retrospect, I didn’t realise how much it was gonna change my life, because it really changed my life for a long time. I just thought, you know, ‘here we go, it’s gonna be great!’”
“I was hoping for some sort of psychedelic revelation, kind of Hair-like with just amazing imagery and some sort of opening into some sort of other form of consciousness,” he continued. “It was not that at all. It was just fear and anxiety, being just, just amplified, you know, like who needs that? Who needs to take a drug to have that?
“Immediately, I started to freak out and get really scared, I started looking at my hands. Doing the cliche thing, like just kind of staring your hand or like your thumb and like just seeing the whole universe in your thumb, that kind of thing.”
“We were walking towards where they blow up the balloon animals for the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and I started to trip out on that idea; evil giant inflated characters were flipping up and coming out of 77th Street,’ he laughed. “I had no idea where I was, who I was or what the whole context of life was.”
Fearing, as one might, that he would never feel normal again, Stiller did what any afraid youngster would do. “I decided that I needed to talk to my parents to tell them what was happening to me and my parents were out of town, filming a Love Boat episode,” he explained.
“I think he might have thought that I, you know, drank some battery acid or something. It wasn’t like, you know… my dad wasn’t Jerry Garcia, he’s Jerry Stiller.”
“I could hear him processing it. I think the immediate thought was like, I think he was thinking he failed as a parent; I think that was what was probably going through his mind,” Stiller opined. “Then my dad said, ‘I understand what you’re going through. When I was 10 years old. I smoked a Pall Mall cigarette, and I was sick for two days’. And I said, ‘No, that’s not what I’m going through, this is a whole different experience’. I tried to explain to him what it was and he basically said, he said it was gonna be okay, which actually was really sweet.”
Sadly, Jerry Stiller passed away in 2020, aged 92. The father-son bond remained touchingly strong over the years, and as he rose to international acclaim, Stiller welcomed his father to appear in some of his movies, including Zoolander, Heavyweights, Hot Pursuit, The Heartbreak Kid, and Zoolander 2.
Watch the official trailer for Netflix’s Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics below.