To the Man Who Gave Us 'Deep Belly Laughs,' Goodbye

From 'This Is Spinal Tap' to 'Anchorman,' Fred Willard carved out an unusual career
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 16, 2020 3:55 PM CDT
To the Man Who Gave Us 'Deep Belly Laughs,' Goodbye
In this March 21, 2003, file photo, the cast of the film "The Mighty Wind," standing from left, Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, John Michael Higgins, Fred Willard, and, seated, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, and Harry Shearer, amuse themselves during a photo shoot in Beverly Hills, Calif.   (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, File)

Fred Willard, the comedic actor whose improv style kept him relevant for more than 50 years in films like This Is Spinal Tap, Best In Show, and Anchorman, has died, the AP reports. He was 86. Willard's daughter, Hope Mulbarger, said in a statement Saturday that her father died peacefully Friday night. The cause of his death has not been released. "He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end," Mulbarger said. "We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever." Willard was rarely a leading man or even a major supporting character. He specialized in small, scene-stealing appearances. As an arrogantly clueless sports announcer on Best In Show, his character asked his partner on-air: "How much do you think I can bench?"

Willard was a four-time Emmy nominee for his roles in What's Hot, What’s Not, Everybody Loves Raymond, Modern Family, and The Bold and the Beautiful. "How lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willard’s gifts," said actress Jamie Lee Curtis on Twitter. "Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard." Willard’s death comes nearly two years after his wife Mary Willard died at the age of 71. She was a playwright and TV writer, earning four Emmy nominations. In 2012, Willard had a brush with the law. The actor was arrested after being suspected of committing a lewd act at a Hollywood adult theater. Willard called the arrest "very embarrassing" but insisted he did nothing wrong. "It's the last time I’m going to listen to my wife when she says, 'Why don't you go and see a movie?'" Willard said.

(Read more obituary stories.)

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