Remembering Fred Willard
I am feeling so sad about the passing of Fred Willard. He was one of our favorite guests on Movie Addict Headquarters. But prior to that, I had a telephone interview with Fred Ė and he kept me in stitches. Below is my article about that interview.
"The world needs comedy," funnyman Fred Willard declared in a spirited telephone interview. Thatís why this acclaimed comedian plans to keep playing such roles as the hilarious real estate agent in Waiting for Guffman and the ignorant commentator in Best in Show, two outrageous mockumentaries by filmmaker Chistopher Guest. "Iíd like to try action-adventure, but thatís too much work," he quipped.
Well-known for his improvisational talent, Willard explained how he approached his Best in Show character. "I was told Buck Laughlin was a former athlete who had done some sportscasting but didnít know anything about dogs and was too lazy to find out. Then I just came up with things I thought a man like that would say."
Willardís interpretation of Laughlin certainly hit pay dirt. His amusing comments about how someone should do a calendar of "women bathing their dogs" and the need for a bloodhound owner "to wear a Sherlock Holmes cap" had critics attending a Denver press screening howling with delight. The veteran Second City sketch artist seemed pleased about how much of his work remained in the final cut of Best in Show. "I was surprised, especially since many of my Guffman scenes didnít make it to the finished movie," he admitted.
Born in Cleveland, Willard confessed to causing minor disturbances with his comic antics while in school there. "When the kids laughed at me, I always asked the teacher why I was in trouble when the others were the ones making the noise."
Like many comics, Willard found laughter the best way to cope with pain as a child. "When I was 11 years old, my father died just four days before Christmas," he stated. "That had quite an impact on me and my attitude toward life. Iím a lot like Dick Cavet who says, ĎWhenever I go to a restaurant, I expect it to be closed.í"
Turning back to his childhood days, Willard recalled wanting a B.B. gun as a youngster. His mother wouldnít allow it. "Youíll never be completely happy until you put someoneís eye out," she warned him. "Well, she was right," he said. "Iíve never put someoneís eye out, and Iíve never been completely happy."
Commenting on his own child-rearing techniques, Willard explained, "We gave our daughter everything she wanted. We nurtured he and never made her suffer. Now sheís all grown up and a mom herself. But she doesnít want to work at being an actress or do comedy. Where did we go wrong?"
Although Willard really wanted to be a baseball player, choosing acting as a career has brought him success in films, live theatre, and television. Highlights of his work include being a founding member of a classic improv group (Ace Trucking Company) and performing recurring television roles on Mad About You, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Roseanne (for which he received an Emmy nomination). He has appeared in such diverse movies as Idle Hands, This Is Spinal Tap, and Roxanne.
Willard has also provided voices for characters in The Simpsons and King of the Hill. In addition, his one-man show, Fred Willard: Alone At Last (with a cast of twelve!) received two Los Angeles Artistic Director Awards, for Best Production and Best Comedy. "I even played the President of the United States once, just like Harrison Ford," Willard mentioned. "It was in a television movie, The Pooch and the Pauper."
If the report of this interview seems a bit jumbled, itís because Willard kept me laughing too much to take good notes. But heís absolutely right. The world does need comedy. And comedy needs talented comedians like Fred Willard.
R.I.P. Fred Willard. Thanks for all the happy memories youíve left us. We will miss you!