Comedy actor Fred Willard best known for Best in Show and Modern Family dies at 86

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Imogen Braddick
·2 min read
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John Salangsang/Invision/AP
John Salangsang/Invision/AP

Comic actor Fred Willard, whose improvisation style kept him relevant for more than 50 years in films like This Is Spinal Tap, Best In Show and Anchorman, has died aged 86.

Willard’s daughter, Hope Mulbarger, said in a statement on Saturday that her father died peacefully on Friday night.

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

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.

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As an arrogantly clueless sports announcer on Best In Show, his character seemed to clearly know nothing about the dogs he is supposed to talk about, and asks his partner on air: “How much do you think I can bench?”

“How lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willard’s gifts,” actress Jamie Lee Curtis said on Twitter.

Stars have paid tribute to the comedy actor on social media (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Stars have paid tribute to the comedy actor on social media (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

She was married to Christopher Guest who directed Best in Show and Waiting For Guffman.

“Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard,” she continued.

Willard’s death comes nearly two years after his wife Mary Willard died at the age of 71, who was a playwright and TV writer, earning four Emmy nominations.

Willard attending a premiere in Hollywood in 2014(Getty Images)
Willard attending a premiere in Hollywood in 2014(Getty Images)

After his wife died, Willard questioned whether he would work again.

But he was brought on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to mock President Donald Trump’s “space force” - a reprise role of the 1978 NBC show Space Force.

“There was no man sweeter or funnier,” Kimmel said on Twitter. “We were so lucky to know Fred Willard and will miss his many visits.”

Willard's daughter said he died peacefully on Friday night (Getty Images)
Willard's daughter said he died peacefully on Friday night (Getty Images)

In 2012, Willard had a brush with the law after he was arrested after being suspected of committing a lewd act at a Hollywood adult theatre.

He 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 during an appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s NBC show Late Night.