Episode #301: Fred Willard

When I sat down with Fred Willard in February 2020 inside his home in Southern California, he was noticeably weak — I held his microphone for him throughout our conversation — but his mind and his sense of humor was quite intact, and he was still working. In fact, Fred received a phone call during our interview inviting him to the Modern Family wrap party, and talked to me about being ready and willing to drive into Hollywood with only a morning’s notice to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Willard was a deadpan king of comedy and an improvisational genius in all sorts of supporting roles in television and movies from the 1960s until his final days. We spoke about all of it over the course of an hour, from how he got involved with The Second City and Ace Trucking Company, to Fernwood 2 Night and Real People, hosting Saturday Night Live in 1978, meeting Christopher Guest and his memorable roles in This Is Spinal Tap, For Your Consideration, and of course, Best in Show. He had a funny story about how he scored a role in Everybody Loves Raymond. Willard also talked about what would be his last venture, playing Steve Carell’s father in the new Netflix farce, Space Force. Willard died peacefully at home on May 15, 2020. He was 86. He was the only live-action actor in a Pixar animated movie in WALL-E, perhaps because he always animated every project he worked on. Fred Willard most certainly will be missed. But let him tell you why in his own words, so let’s get to it!

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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