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Fred Willard

Fred Willard

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: September 18, 1939 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Shaker Heights, Ohio, USA Profession: actor, comedian, TV host

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Best known for his buttoned-up professionals with no sense of their own cluelessness, actor Fred Willard emerged from the 1960s improv scene to become a critic's favorite and an admired comedy veteran. After earning an initial cult following as the dimwitted sidekick of talk show host Martin Mull in the cutting-edge parody "Fernwood 2-Night" (syndicated, 1977-78), Willard fans generally caught glimpses of the actor in character roles as self-assured and wildly incorrect authority figures in unremarkable film and television comedies. But his supporting roles in the "mockumentary" style films of Christopher Guest, beginning with "This is Spinal Tap" (1984), truly showcased Willard's unique gifts for creating memorable middle America characters largely through on-camera improvisation. Among his most beloved Guest-directed performances were that of a dog show sports commentator unschooled in the sport in "Best in Show" (2000) and as an overbearing entertainment news host in "For Your Consideration" (2006). Willard also received acclaim for guest-starring stints on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (CBS, 1996-2005) and "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-1997), which, to the delight of pop culture historians, allowed him to...

Best known for his buttoned-up professionals with no sense of their own cluelessness, actor Fred Willard emerged from the 1960s improv scene to become a critic's favorite and an admired comedy veteran. After earning an initial cult following as the dimwitted sidekick of talk show host Martin Mull in the cutting-edge parody "Fernwood 2-Night" (syndicated, 1977-78), Willard fans generally caught glimpses of the actor in character roles as self-assured and wildly incorrect authority figures in unremarkable film and television comedies. But his supporting roles in the "mockumentary" style films of Christopher Guest, beginning with "This is Spinal Tap" (1984), truly showcased Willard's unique gifts for creating memorable middle America characters largely through on-camera improvisation. Among his most beloved Guest-directed performances were that of a dog show sports commentator unschooled in the sport in "Best in Show" (2000) and as an overbearing entertainment news host in "For Your Consideration" (2006). Willard also received acclaim for guest-starring stints on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (CBS, 1996-2005) and "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-1997), which, to the delight of pop culture historians, allowed him to work again with Fernwood's Martin Mull. Because of his gift for improvisational comedy, Willard remained a frequent late night guest while continuing to work steadily well into the next millennium.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Anchorman 2 (2013)
5.
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7.
 Expecting Mary (2010)
8.
9.
 Youth in Revolt (2009)
10.
 WALL-E (2008)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1962:
Started a comedy team with friend and classmate Vic Grecco
1964:
Made TV debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" (CBS)
:
Became a regular member of Chicago's Second City
:
Appeared with the Los Angeles' improv troupe The Committee
1969:
Off-Broadway debut, "Little Murders"; appeared alongside Christopher Guest
1969:
Feature film debut, "The Model Shop"
1969:
Made first appearance on "The Tonight Show" (NBC) as member of the Ace Trucking Company improv troupe
1973:
Was regular on "The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour" (ABC)
1976:
TV-movie debut, "How to Break Up a Happy Divorce" (NBC)
1976:
Was regular on the NBC sitcom "Sirota's Court"
1977:
Tapped by Norman Lear to co-host (with Martin Mull) the syndicated "Fernwood 2-Night"
1978:
With Mull, co-hosted "America 2-Night", a short-lived syndicated follow-up to "Fernwood 2-Night"
1979:
Was one of the hosts of "Real People" (NBC)
1981:
Returned as one of the hosts of "Real People"
1983:
Was sidekick to Alan Thicke on "Thicke of the Night" (syndicated)
1984:
Had memorable role in Rob Reiner's mock documentary "This Is Spinal Tap"; reunited onscreen with Guest
1985:
Co-hosted the syndicated "What's Hot, What's Not"
1987:
Featured in the HBO special "Martin Mull Live! From North Ridgeville"
1987:
Appeared in the Oscar-winning short "Ray's Male Heterosexual Dance Hall"
1987:
Was regular on "D.C. Follies" (syndicated)
1988:
Co-starred in first movie made for Cinemax, "Martin Mull in 'Portrait of a White Marriage'"
1990:
Co-hosted revived "Candid Camera" (CBS)
:
Stayed busy throughout the 1990s with extensive television guest work
1994:
Co-starred with Mull in the Comedy Central special "Subaru Presents Fair Enough: Martin Mull at the Iowa State Fair"
1994:
Had a recurring role on the ABC sitcom "Family Matters"
1995:
Made first of several appearances as President Garner on "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" (ABC)
1995:
Played Martin Mull's gay mate in "Roseanne" (ABC)
1996:
Returned to feature film work in Christopher Guest's "Waiting for Guffman"
1998:
Featured in the mockumentary "Elvis is Alive, I Swear, I Just Saw Him Eating a Ding-Dong Outside the Piggly Wiggly"
1998:
Had a supporting role in the biopic "Permanent Midnight"
1998:
Guested on several episodes of NBC's "Mad About You"
1999:
Featured in the quirky independent comedy "Can't Stop Dancing"
1999:
Played the Dad in the horror comedy "Idle Hands"
1999:
Was a recurring player on the CBS sitcom "Ladies Man"
2000:
Reteamed with Guest for the comedy "Best in Show" playing the announcer at a dog show
2001:
Had a memorable cameo as a flamboyant dance teacher in "The Wedding Planner"
2001:
Portrayed sportscaster Howard Cosell in the ABC TV-movie "When Billie Beat Bobby"
2001:
Cast in the WB's "Maybe It's Me"
2003:
Had a small part in Christopher Guest's "A Mighty Wind"
2003:
Had a recurring role as Hank McDougal on the CBS comedy "Everybody Loves Raymond"; received Emmy nominations for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for 2003, 2004 and 2005
2004:
Cast opposite Will Ferrell and Christina Applegate in "Anchorman"
2005:
Featured in the big screen adaptation of "Bewitched"
2006:
Teamed with Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer for the comedy spoof "Date Movie"
2007:
Once again teamed with Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer for the spoof/parody film "Epic Movie"
2007:
Cast as sportscaster, Marsh McGinley on the Fox series "Back to You"
2008:
Voiced the president of the Buynlarge Corporation in the Pixar animated film "WALL-E"
2009:
Guest starred on ABC's "Modern Family"; earned an Emmy (2010) nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series
2010:
Co-starred with Michael Cera and Jean Smart in the film adaptation of C.D. Payne's "Youth in Revolt"
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Education

Kentucky Military Institute: Lyndon , Kentucky - 1951
Virginia Military Institute: Lexington , Virginia - 1955

Notes

"I have to continue to stay motivated at being successful in movies and television so I can get invited to more celebrity softball games and golf tournaments". --Fred Willard quoted in his Comedy Central bio for "Access America", 1990.

On working improvisationally in the Christopher Guest films "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best in Show": "It is quite scary. you have to do your homework and you have to come prepared. It's not just free-form improvisation like you'd see in a comedy club. You know exactly who your character is and you know exactly where the scene is going to begin and end. And Chris knows exactly what he wants. I never heard him say, 'Oh no, you're on the wrong track.'" --to Daily News, September 24, 2000.

Director Christopher Guest on casting Fred Willard as a zany commentator opposite British actor Jim Piddock's perfectly proper announcer: "You need Jim's reality for Fred to bounce off of, because Fred is on another planet in every respect." --quoted in Entertainment Weekly, October 13, 2000.

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