Hollywood has come out to pay their respects to a comedy legend. Fred Willard passed away peacefully at home from natural causes, according to his family. He was 86-years old. “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,” his daughter Hope Mulbarger said in a statement. “We loved him so very much!” Mulbarger is not alone in paying tribute to her father.
“A fond farewell to Mr. Fred Willard,” said actress Jamie Lee Curtis, whose husband, Christopher Guest, worked with Willard a lot over the years. “How lucky we all are that we got to witness his great gifts. Thanks for the deep belly laughs. You are now with Mary. Home safe.” Willard’s wife Mary died nearly two years ago at the age of 71. Willard is perhaps best-known on the big screen for appearing in the Rob Reiner mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap and then his work with Guest on Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration, and Mascots.
Fred Willard’s frequent co-star Michael McKean also had some kind words for the comedian on social media. “I’m at a loss for words, a state Fred Willard never found himself in,” McKean said. Willard was truly a master of improvisational comedy, which many people who worked with him will tell you. “My friend for 40+ years, a great comic actor who had no competition because there was only one of him. We were all so lucky. Goodbye, Fred,” concluded McKean. Willard’s success wasn’t just on the big screen over the years. He also appeared on Fernwood Tonight, Everybody Loves Raymond, Roseanne, Get Smart, Murphy Brown, The Wayans Brothers, King of the Hill, The Simpsons, and way too many more shows to list.
Jimmy Kimmel says, “There was no man sweeter or funnier. We were so lucky to know Fred Willard and will miss his many visits.” Steve Carrell, who just worked with Willard on the upcoming Space Force series for Netflix says, “Fred Willard was the funniest person that I’ve ever worked with. He was a sweet, wonderful man.” An interesting side note: this is not the first time Willard has starred in a project called Space Force. He starred in a 1978 TV movie with the same name as Captain Thomas Woods.
Director/writer Judd Apatow also paid tribute to the comedian. “Fred Willard could not have been funnier. He was pure joy. And the sweetest person you could ever meet,” said Apatow. Another one of Willard’s constant co-stars was Harry Shearer, who says, “Just learned of Fred Willard’s death. Just about the funniest human ever to walk the planet. An amazing talent, in telekinetic contact with the very wellspring of comedy.” It’s truly amazing to look back and see all of the projects that Willard was involved with over the years. You can read some more tributes to Willard below, starting with Jamie Lee Curtis’ Twitter tribute.