Fred Willard, who brought his comic presents to ‘Modern Family,’ is dead at 86


Image: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM.

By Adam Rosenberg

Legendary star, writer, and comic Fred Willard died on Friday at the age of 86.

He may be best known to 2020 audiences for his role on Modern Household, where he played Phil’s dad Frank. But Willard has a long history in Hollywood, including a lengthy and creatively productive relationship with mockumentary master Christopher Guest.

Willard’s profession started in the New York City funny scene of the 1950 s, where he initially went far for himself as one half of a comedy duo along with Vic Grecco. He later on carried out with Second City in Chicago and co-founded the improv funny performers, Ace Trucking Company, which logged numerous appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson

Willard’s profile had only grown by the end of the ’70 s, when a role on the funny series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman landed him a starring role (along with Martin Mull) on the spin-off Fernwood 2 Night, and a couple others that followed.

All of which is to say that Willard was already a widely known name amongst funny lovers by the time he made his very first huge splash in the Rob Reiner-directed mockumentary This is Back Tap, which was co-written by Guest. He then went on to appear in Visitor’s biggest subsequent hits, consisting of the pet dog reveal farce Best in Program; the folk music riff on Spine Tap, A Mighty Wind; and the homemade regional theater send-up, Waiting for Guffman(to name a few).

He had roles in the very first Austin Powers, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, and Anchorman On TELEVISION, his credits include appearances on The Bob Newhart Show, Laverne & Shirley, Married … With Kid, Household Matters, Roseanne, Murphy Brown, Mad About You, The Simpsons, and Modern Family(among lots of others).

Willard kept working right up to the end. He will next appear in a recurring function on Netflix’s upcoming series Space Force, from Steve Carell and Greg Daniels (of The Workplace and Parks and Leisure fame).

A large neighborhood of friends, fans, and coworkers stepped up quickly to commemorate Willard on social media in the hours after his death, credited to natural causes, was confirmed

How fortunate that all of us got to take pleasure in Fred Willard’s presents. He is with his missed out on Mary now. Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard. Best in Program (7/11) Motion Picture CLIP – Judging the Hounds (2000) HD https://t.co/wPrbk9VjWI through @YouTube

— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) May 16, 2020

Fred Willard was the funniest individual that I’ve ever worked with. He was a sweet, fantastic male.

— Steve Carell (@SteveCarell) May 16, 2020

Just discovered of Fred Willard’s death.

— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) May 16, 2020

I’m at a loss for words, a state Fred Willard never ever found himself in.

— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) May 16, 2020

Gutted. His enormous skill and compassion will never be forgotten. We love you Fred Willard. Thank you for the decades of laughter.

— christina applegate (@ 1capplegate) May 16, 2020

One of my favorite lines in a motion picture ever was delivered by Fred Willard in BEST IN SHOW, after a naughty pet went after the judge: “He went after her like she was made from ham.” This man was so fantastic and he elevated the flicks and TV programs in which he popped up. RIP, Funny Man! https://t.co/jEmDS0T9n8

— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) May 16, 2020

RIP Fred Willard. you were matchless

— Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) May 16, 2020

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