LOS ANGELES, CA — Four-time Emmy Award-winner Fred Willard has died, his agent, Mike Eisendstadt, announced Saturday.
Willard was 86 years old.
Younger audiences became acquainted with him when he was cast as the TV father of actor Ty Burrell on the ABC sitcom “Modern Family.” He was known to generations as a comedy actor in ensemble movies such as “Waiting for Guffman,” “A Mighty Wind,” and “Best in Show.”
Earlier audiences knew him as Jerry Hubbard, sidekick to actor Martin Mull in the 70’s talk show spoof “Fernwood Tonight.”
On her Twitter page, long-time friend and fellow show biz vet Jamie Lee Curtis wrote, “How lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willard’s gifts,” and “Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard.”
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
Actor Steve Carell tweeted, “Fred Willard was the funniest person that I’ve ever worked with. He was a sweet, wonderful man.”
Willard’s stage career began when he moved to New York in the late 1950s. His initial work included a production of “Desperate Hours” at a local YMCA, where he worked with future comedy partner Vic Grecco. They later performed under the moniker Willard & Grecco in the Greenwich Village area. The comedy duo found some success touring and made appearances on “The Dean Martin Show,” “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” and “The Tonight Show.”
RIP, Fred. You were always my comic hero. I was thrilled to work with you in Roxanne. https://t.co/IjSxCMESzt
— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) May 16, 2020
Willard had a recurring role as “Hank MacDougall” on the later seasons of CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond.” He was cast as a sportscaster in the television series “Back to You,” which premiered on the Fox Network in 2007.
The Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters presented Willard with the Art Gilmore Career Achievement Award at their celebrity luncheon in 2015.
The cause of Willard’s death has not yet been released, nor were his whereabouts at the time.
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
City News Service contributed to this report.
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