This afternoon brought the sad news of Fred Willard’s passing at the age of 86. The beloved comic and actor was a frequent presence on movie theater and television screens for more than 40 years, and his witty, satirical brand of comedy led to many memorable roles. From film roles in Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and Anchorman, to TV spots on Rosanne, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Modern Family, Willard left a lasting legacy that will not soon be forgotten.
As news of his death spread on Saturday, Willard’s former co-stars and friends posted tributes to social media. Jamie Lee Curtis, the wife of Willard’s longtime collaborator Christopher Guest, was one of the first people to confirm his passing. “How lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willard’s gifts,” she wrote. “Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard.”
Michael McKean, who co-starred alongside Willard in This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind, paid tribute, writing: “I’m at a loss for words, a state Fred Willard never found himself in. 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.”
This Is Spinal Tap co-star Harry Shearer, added, “Just about the funniest human ever to walk the planet. An amazing talent, in telekinetic contact with the very wellspring of comedy.”
Meanwhile, Steve Carell, who appeared alongside Willard in Anchorman, called him “the funniest person I’ve ever worked with.”
See these tributes and more below.
I’m at a loss for words, a state Fred Willard never found himself in. 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.
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) May 16, 2020
Just learned of Fred Willard’s passing. Just about the funniest human ever to walk the planet. An amazing talent, in telekinetic contact with the very wellspring of comedy.
— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) May 16, 2020
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. Best in Show (7/11) Movie CLIP – Judging the Hounds (2000) HD https://t.co/wPrbk9VjWI via @YouTube
— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) May 16, 2020
Fred Willard was the funniest person that I’ve ever worked with. He was a sweet, wonderful man.
— Steve Carell (@SteveCarell) May 16, 2020
There was no man sweeter or funnier. We were so lucky to know Fred Willard and will miss his many visits https://t.co/joHM39o8k4
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) May 16, 2020
Fred Willard could not have been funnier. He was pure joy. And the sweetest person you could ever meet. https://t.co/JoLy6PVd9d
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) May 16, 2020
Devastated to learn that the great Fred Willard has died. I was honored to have called him a friend. One of the funniest, nicest, sweetest, purest souls I have ever had the privilege to know. He was my hero from Fernwood Tonight when I was a kid. He was never not funny. RIP Fred.
— Paul Feig (@paulfeig) May 16, 2020
One of my favorite lines in a movie ever was delivered by Fred Willard in BEST IN SHOW, after a naughty dog went after the judge: “He went after her like she was made of ham.” This man was so brilliant and he elevated the flicks and TV shows in which he popped up. RIP, Funny Man! https://t.co/jEmDS0T9n8
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) May 16, 2020
Gutted. His immense talent and kindness will never be forgotten. We love you Fred Willard. Thank you for the decades of laughter.
— christina applegate (@1capplegate) May 16, 2020
Thank you @Fred_Willard 😥
— Destroyer Of Comedy, Humor (@timheidecker) May 16, 2020
So sad to hear that Fred Willard passed away.
One of my favorite roles of his was as Ron Albertson in Waiting For Guffman. Watch how many dentist jokes he delivers in under ten seconds. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/BHgPl3EXoY
— Vic Berger IV (@VicBergerIV) May 16, 2020
It was a privilege to have the great Fred Willard know my name. Rest In Peace Fred. You were funny in your bones. pic.twitter.com/PlFTCHFZCK
— Eric Stonestreet (@ericstonestreet) May 16, 2020
From the “I’m Old Enough To Remember” files: Fernwood Tonight. First taste of Fred Willard’s brilliance pic.twitter.com/K0vl35dPLk
— Bill Corbett (@BillCorbett) May 16, 2020
Fred Willard was and will always be one of the funniest people in the history of people. Thank you Fred for all of the cackling joy you gave.
— Taran Killam (@TaranKillam) May 16, 2020
fred willard was one of the funniest people to ever live and shockingly he was also one of the nicest. i was lucky to get to work with him once and experience both of those things up close. RIP to a true legend, a man who deserves to be on the mount rushmore of comedy.
— josh androsky (@ShutUpAndrosky) May 16, 2020
Nobody funnier than #FredWillard. And when he happened to be in an audience, nobody laughed harder. Just saw him before quarantine & already miss him. He was my biggest fan and I am his. Fred & Mary were so kind to me. Sending a big virtual hug to his family, friends and fans pic.twitter.com/XAIsVzuwEs
— Jeff Ross (@realjeffreyross) May 16, 2020
RIP to the legendary #FredWillard. The first time I worked with him ironically it was a table reading for a Drama/comedy play. I was still in The Groundlings in those days. He looked right in my eyes when we had dialogue. Basic but vital acting tip. Oh and funny as f**k💔
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) May 16, 2020
We were fortunate to have worked with the hilarious Fred Willard on several episodes of Sister, Sister. His comedy chops were unbeatable.
We’ll miss you, friend. 💔 pic.twitter.com/jHxoi4DqVg
— Jackée Harry (@JackeeHarry) May 16, 2020
RIP Fred Willard. Always had us laughing so hard it hurt. Doesn’t get any funnier than this scene from A Mighty Wind. pic.twitter.com/oNTJSCj2eL
— Adam Best (@adamcbest) May 16, 2020
RIP Fred Willard ..you were incomparable
— Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) May 16, 2020