There is no doubt that Fred Willard will long be remembered by his co-stars, as well as the fans who adored his work. The comedy legend died on Friday, May 15, at the age of 86 from natural causes, and ever since the news broke, social media has been filled with tributes to Willard from celebrities and other fans.
Willard’s daughter, Hope Mulbarger, told the Hollywood Reporter that her dad died “very peacefully,” and he kept moving, working, and making everyone happy until the very end. Willard’s death comes two years after his wife of 50 years, Mary, passed away.
Fred Willard. The dear hilarious kind man we just lost. Here am I with he and Martin Mull while shooting a documentary about Martin. Seeing them having fun together reminiscent of the Fernwood days was truly a joy. Rest In Peace dear Fred. pic.twitter.com/mnYHzhlxLQ
— bob saget (@bobsaget) May 16, 2020
The Ohio native got his start in New York back in the 1950s and worked with Vic Grecco as the comedy duo Willard and Grecco. They appeared on numerous TV shows in the 1960s, including The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and The Dean Martin Show.
After a run with Second City in Chicago and creating the comedy group Ace Trucking Company, Willard got a big break in 1977 when he joined the cast of the parody talk show Fernwood 2 Night. He also hosted the talk show What’s Hot, What’s Not in the mid-1980s and earned a Daytime Emmy nomination.
There is nobody funnier than Fred Willard. Every time he was on screen I got excited and he never disappointed. Every time I saw him in real life he was kind and generous. Watching him in Fernwood Tonight, Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show and all of his other film… pic.twitter.com/ilGiJ3u0vV
— nick kroll (@nickkroll) May 16, 2020
In the 1990s, Willard said that his career really changed after teaming up with Christopher Guest. They had worked together previously on This Is Spinal Tap, and Willard went on to star in numerous Guest films like Waiting For Guffman, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration.
Willard’s filmography also included roles in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, and Austin Powers.
Willard also earned several Emmy nominations for his work on Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family, and was a frequent contributor on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Guest’s wife, shared a clip of Willard from Best In Show and wrote 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.”
I am sad to say goodbye to Fred Willard, who was still the funniest of men at age 86. Here's what turned out to be our last moment on-air together… pic.twitter.com/inDZVtls6v
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) May 16, 2020
His Modern Family co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson paid tribute to Willard by writing: “Rest In Peace sweet @Fred_Willard. You will always be a true original and I am so honored that our lives intersected. No one will ever come close to replacing your genius.”
Other celebrities who have honored Willard on social media include: Eric Stonestreet, Christina Applegate, Steve Martin, Kathy Griffin, Steve Carell, Parker Posey, Henry Winkler, Bob Saget, Bryan Cranston, Martin Mull, Ed Begley, Jr. and Nick Kroll.
“There is nobody funnier than Fred Willard,” wrote Kroll. “Every time he was on screen I got excited and he never disappointed. Every time I saw him in real life he was kind and generous.”