It seemed like last week there was a wave of sadness in the form of many celebrity deaths, and it looks like this week we’re getting another round of sadness. Because joining Frank Bielec of Trading Spaces on the walk to the afterworld is master of funny (and a man who could keep up in the dapper department with that dapper-as-fuck pussy) Fred Willard. Fred died of natural causes last night. He was 86.
Fred’s daughter Hope Willard gave the sad news to TMZ:
“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.”
After serving in the military, Fred moved to NYC to get into the laughs game, and that’s where he met fellow comedy actor Vic Greco and the two formed the laugh-inducing duo of Greco & Willard in the late-50s. They toured and performed on variety shows before breaking up in 1968 over decisions that Greco made like turning down appearances on The Carol Burnett Show.
Fred performed with Second City in Chicago before getting cast opposite Martin Mull in several Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman spinoffs (Fernwood 2 Night, Forever Fernwood, and America 2-Night), which were parodies of late-night talk shows in the late-70s. Fred also got his own talk show, What’s Hot, What’s Not, which ran from 1985 to 1986 and got him an Emmy nomimation for Outstanding Talk Show Host.
Fred also brought the laughs to TV shows like Sirota’s Court, The Love Boat, The History of White People in America, Out Of This World, The Golden Girls, Family Matters, The Mommies (Remember that shit?), Roseanne, Friends, Sister, Sister, The Weird Al Show, Mad About You, Maybe It’s Me, Ally McBeal, Girlfriends, Everybody Loves Raymond, Back To You, Modern Family, and The Bold and the Beautiful. Fred hosted Market Warriors, but in 2012, PBS fired him after he was arrested on suspicion of committing a Pee-wee Herman at a porn theater on Santa Monica Blvd. That was a stupid move on PBS’ part, because I’m sure that Big Bird got into some stuff at a porn theater and he was never fired. No charges were ever filed against Fred and he said that although the incident was embarrassing, he didn’t do anything wrong.
Fred was nominated for an Emmy three times for Everybody Loves Raymond and once for Modern Family.
While Fred seemed to be in every single television show ever created, I know him best for bringing his signature brand of clueless comedy brilliance to many Christopher Guest mockumentary masterpieces. Like playing an Air Force colonel in This Is Spinal Tap:
And travel agent/wannabe actor Ron Albertson in Waiting For Guffman:
And fucked-up airhead dog show announcer Buck Laughlin in Best In Show:
And Guy Fieri’s folk band manager uncle in A Mighty Wind:
Fred was also in Christopher Guest’s For Your Considerations, Mascots, and Family Tree. He was in non-Christopher Guest movies too like Roxane, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, The Wedding Planner, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, WALL-E, and Ed Harken in two Anchorman movies.
Fred was married to Mary Willard from 1968 until her death in 2018.
Jamie Lee Curtis, who is married to Christopher Guest, paid tribute to the greatness of Fred Willard on Twitter:
How lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willard’s gifts. He is with his missed Mary now. Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard. Best in Show (7/11) Movie CLIP – Judging the Hounds (2000) HD https://t.co/wPrbk9VjWI via @YouTube
— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) May 16, 2020
Rest in peace, Fred Willard.
Pic: Warner Bros.