Fred Willard, The Comic Actor Best Known For His Roles In Christopher Guest Mockumentaries, Has Died

Fred Willard, the comic actor best known for being a staple and scene-stealer in Christopher Guest mockumentaries, has died, reports Rolling Stone. The cause of death is reportedly natural causes. The news was first reported by Guest’s wife, Jamie Lee Curtis, over Twitter.

Born in 1933 in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Willard relocated to New York City at a young age, and he broke into the comedy scene with appearances, in the ’60s, on The Dean Martin Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Get Smart, The Carol Burnett Show, and more. By the ’70s he received wider acclaim on Norman Lear’s Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman spinoffs Fernwood 2 Night and America 2-Night, which parodied late night talk shows.

But it was Christopher Guest films that took him next level. Willard appeared, briefly, and very amusingly, in This is Spinal Tap, playing a cheerfully square Lieutenant who invites the faded metal band to play an army show. When Guest returned to the mockumentary form, starting with 1996’s Waiting for Guffman, he brought him back, enlisting him to team with Catherine O’Hara as a couple who moonlight as local musical theater hounds.

Willard would return for every subsequent Guest mockumentary, from Best in Show to A Mighty Wind to Mascots, as well as the non-mockumentary (but still ad-lib-heavy) For Your Consideration. On top of his Guest work, Willard also filed memorable turns in films like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Anchorman, and WALL-E (as the lone non-CGI character). He was also a prolific TV staple, and some of his final work will be seen in the forthcoming Steve Carell comedy Space Force.

This is sad news, so please drown your sorrows by taking in some of his finest work, including this one, from Best in Show.

And here’s him in A Mighty Wind.

And, more recently, he nailed this sketch from I Think You Should Leave.

(Via Rolling Stone)