Stiller's breakthrough movie - the Farrelly Brothers' gross-out comedy There's Something About Mary - gave little hint of the subtle humour that could be the actor's strongpoint.
Impressive appearances have included Meet the Parents opposite Robert De Niro, Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums and fashion spoof Zoolander, based on his Saturday Night Live skit.
"If my parents were like, plumbers, who knows what I would be doing?"
Born to comedy duo parents Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller (Frank Costanza in Seinfeld), his sister Amy is also an actress.
He shamelessly milked his connections to land his first professional acting job in the 1985 Lincoln Centre revival of the dark comedy The House of Blue Leaves.
During its run his short parody of The Colour of Money, entitled The Hustler of Money, landed him an appearance (later to become permanent) on Saturday Night Live.
In 1987, he made his film acting debut in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun which he followed with the low-profile Fresh Horses and Next of Kin.
His self-written and directed short Elvis Stories included appearances by John Cusack and was followed by a minor role in the Bette Midler Stella.
Stiller made his directorial debut with cult hit Reality Bites starring Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke and starred in the comedy Flirting with Disaster.
The 1998 comedy-thriller Zero Effect gained Stiller notice and he followed it up with There's Something About Mary the same year.
Subsequent appearances included Neil LaBute's Your Friends and Neighbours, Permanent Midnight and The Suburbans.
In May 2001, Ben appeared in American Who Wants to Be A Millionaire and walked away with £22,000 for charity.
The cross-denominational comedy Keeping The Faith was followed by the rewarding role of Gaylord "Greg" Focker in Meet the Parents.
After the Tom Cruise TV spoof Mission: Improbable, Stiller returned to the big screen as a director and actor, helming and starring in Zoolander, a send-up of the modelling world.
In 2002, he re-teamed with his Zoolander nemesis and frequent co-star Owen Wilson in The Royal Tenenbaums, a story co-written by Wilson and director Wes Anderson about a dysfunctional family and their three genius children.
Starring Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Luke Wilson the film was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar.
He is married to actress Christine Taylor, with whom he has a daughter Ella, although was romantically linked to Jeanne Tripplehorn for a long time.
Stiller went on to star alongside Drew Barrymore in Donny DeVito's Duplex and the romantic comedy Along Came Polly alongside Jennifer Aniston.
In 2004, he co-starred with Owen Wilson in the enjoyable remake of the TV classic Starsky & Hutch as well as the comic tour de force Dodgeball with Vince Vaughn.
The hard working actor went on to reprise the role of Gaylord Focker in Meet The Parents sequel, Meet The Fockers and perform voice-over work on the Dreamworks CGI cartoon, Madagascar.
More recently, Stiller broke box office records with Night At The Museum, and appeared in another Farrely brothers hit, The Hearbreak Kid. He then appeared in Tropic Thunder, a movie that saw Stiller in the director's chair for the first time since Zoolander.
Stiller's next appearance will be in the sequel Night At The Museum 2: Battle Of The Smithsonian, in which he reprises his role as Larry Daley, the security guard who looks after the exhibits of a museum when they come to life.