Actor and comic genius Fred Willard has died over the weekend, aged 86.
Willard’s daughter, Hope Mulbarger, said in a statement that her father died peacefully on Friday night (Saturday morning, Australian time).
Willard starred in countless films over his 50 years of movie-making, including early feature comedies such as Cracking Up, How to Beat the High Co$t of Living and National Lampoon’s Movie Madness in the early 1980s.
In 1984 he featured in the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap which lead to a close working relationship with director Christopher Guest, going on to feature in pretty much all of Guest’s subsequent films including Waiting For Guffman, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration, and the more recent Mascots.
Willard was appreciated for his fast improvised brand of comedy which also leaked into popular television series, having appeared in everything from Everybody Loves Raymond to Modern Family, Get Smart to King of the Hill, and even The Bold and the Beautiful for which he earned several Emmy nominations.
Though some of his roles were bit-parts, Willard always managed to steal the scene with his dry wit and awe-inspiring humour.
Willard began performing comedy and acting on stage at a YMCA gym in New York in the late 1950s.
He would go on to thrive in ensemble features and was soon dubbed “the king of deadpan cameo”.
He later starred in blockbuster hits including the Anchorman movies.
Fred Willard is survived by his daughter Hope Mulbarger, son-in-law Mitch Mulbarger, and grandson Freddie.
Rest in peace, one of comedy’s greats.