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Fred Willard, 'Best in Show' and 'Modern Family' comedy star, has died

Actor and comedian Fred Willard has died at 86, his daughter confirmed to CNN.

Posted: May 16, 2020 3:40 PM
Updated: May 16, 2020 3:40 PM

Fred Willard, the comedic actor known for his roles in movies including "Best in Show" and "This is Spinal Tap" and TV sitcoms "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Modern Family," has died.

The star died peacefully on Friday "at the fantastic age of 86 years old," his daughter, Hope Mulbarger, confirmed to CNN.

"He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end. We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever," Mulbarger said.

His death comes nearly two years after the passing of his wife of 50 years, Mary Willard, who died in 2018 when she was 71 years old.

The four-time Emmy nominee, who grew up in Ohio, spread joy through his talent for making people laugh. His work included comedies like "A Mighty Wind" and "Waiting for Guffman," as well as off-Broadway productions including Jules Feiffer's "Little Murders," Dan Greenburg's "Arf and the Great Airplane Snatch," and Mary Willard's "Elvis and Juliet."

In a 2006 interview with Tad Friend of New Yorker Magazine, Willard described his understanding on death saying, "If it was up to me, nothing would ever change, no one would ever die. On the other hand," he added, "then no one could have babies, either, because it would get too crowded."

Honoring Willard

Actors, filmmakers, and comedians touched by Willard's many talents have shared tributes on social media honoring the late actor.

"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!" filmmaker Kevin Smith said on Twitter.

"There was no man sweeter or funnier. We were so lucky to know Fred Willard and will miss his many visits," Jimmy Kimmel tweeted. Willard had appeared on Kimmel's late-night talk show after the death of his wife.

"Fred Willard was the funniest person that I've ever worked with. He was a sweet, wonderful man," fellow comedian Steve Carell said in a tribute on Twitter.

"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," actress Jamie Lee Curtis tweeted.

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