Another sad blow to the comedy community this week. It was announced that Fred Willard passed away last night at the age of 88. The news was shared by his daughter, Hope. “ It is with a heavy heart that I share the news my father passed away very peacefully last night at the fantastic age of 86 years old,” she shared on Twitter. “He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end.We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever.”
It is with a heavy heart that I share the news 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.
— Hope Willard (@Mulbytime7) May 16, 2020
Born in Shaker Heights, Ohio in 1933, his comedy career began when he teamed up with Vic Grecco and together became Willard and Grecco. Together they performed on The Dean Martin Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and The Tonight Show. He eventually moved to Chicago to join the famed Second City before forming the Ace Trucking Company comedy group.
He then went on to play a role he is perhaps best remembered for, as announcer Jerry Hubbard on Fernwood 2 Night in 1978 alongside Martin Mull. The comedy series followed a fictional talk show, and despite only running for a single season, has garnered a cult following over the years. This was then followed by the spin-off America 2-Night.
With over 300 credits to his name and a career spanning over 8 decades, he made guest appearances on almost every sitcom and in every comedy film show you could imagine. This made him one of the most dependable comedic character actors of his time.
Some of these television credits include Get Smart, The Bob Newhart Show, Laverne and Shirley, The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, The Golden Girls, Married With Children, The Ben Stiller Show, Murphy Brown, Friends, The Simpsons, Roseanne, The Weird Al Show, Family Guy, That 70’s Show, Community, Comedy Bang! Bang!, Modern Family, Tim and Eric, Roast Battle, and most memorably Everybody Loves Raymond. He also made countless appearances in sketches for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live!
In films, he is perhaps best remembered for his work in Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration, Waiting For Guffman, and Mascots. Fans of a younger generation may know him best as Ed Harkin in the film Anchorman. Additional film roles include This Is Spinal Tap, Silver Streak, Fun With Dick and Jane, Roxanne, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, How High, The Aristrocrats, and American Wedding.
Willard kept on working right up until the end, with his final appearance being on the show Space Force, which comes out later this month on Netflix.
Below are some highlights from Fred Willard’s long and prolific career.