Fred Willard, Comedy Legend, Dies at 86
More sad news from the entertainment world today, as Fox News reports that Fred Willard, beloved comedian from film and television, has died. Willard passed away of natural causes on Friday. He was 86 years old.
His daughter, Hope Mulbarger, gave this statement to Fox:
My father passed away very peacefully last night at the fantastic age of 86 years old. He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end. We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever.
Willard’s career in comedy lasted over half a century. Born in Ohio in 1933, Willard moved to New York in the 1950s after getting out of the Army. He began doing theater and became a key member of several famous comedy troupes, including the Second City. In the late 1970s he became a fixture on television on shows like Real People; through the years he appeared on many popular TV shows, including The Love Boat, Roseanne, Mad About You, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Modern Family.
But Willard’s most acclaimed roles came during his appearances in the films of Christopher Guest. Guest’s films are largely improvised, and Willard’s background in live comedy made him an enormous asset — and a dependable scene stealer. In the first improvised film Guest directed, 1996’s Waiting For Guffman, Willard played Ron Albertson who, along with his wife Sheila (Catherine O’Hara), become the leads in a local theater production in Blaine, Missouri. Their audition scene for the show is incredible.
In 2000’s Best in Show, Willard played the clueless TV commentator Buck Laughlin, whose ramblings made the climactic dog show absolutely hilarious.
In A Mighty Wind, about the survivors of the 1960s folk scene, Willard even got a catchphrase: “Hey! Wha’ happened?”
Willard has been making appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in recent years, and later this month, viewers of Netflix’s new comedy Space Force will get to see him as the Secretary of Defense. Willard’s co-star on the show, Steve Carell, posted this lovely tribute on Twitter.
Clearly, Fred Willard will be missed, and not just by his fans.
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