Born George Ford Stitch, he ran away from home as a teenager and joined the circus, appearing as Keno, the Boy Clown. He did much work in vaudeville and on the legitimate stage before joining up with filmmaker Mack Sennett in 1911. He became one of the principal players of the early Keystone comedies, appearing in scores of shorts; he often played comic villains, and was also featured as Chief Teheezal of the Keystone Cops. For a while he starred in his own series, the Sterling Comedies. He broke with Sennett in 1921 and played character roles and occasional leads in feature films; however, his slapstick style was out of fashion in the '20s, so he was less popular. In the '30s he lost a leg in an accident, after which he appeared in few films.