Via ExtraTV: Fred Willard, the comic actor closely associated with the best mockumentaries, as well as such TV shows as Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family, died Friday, May 15, at 86 of natural causes.
"We loved him so very much," Willard's daughter Hope Mulbarger told People Magazine, confirming his passing.
Born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, on September 18, 1939, Willard served the army and took to the stage as a comedian by the late '50s, when he worked with fellow comic Vic Greco (1927-2016).
He was a staple of TV in the '60s and '70s, but his career took off after starring in the Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman spin-offs Fernwood 2 Night (1977) and America 2-Night (1978).
Among his hundreds of credits, he hosted Saturday Night Live (1978) and was a prolific voice actor, and was the host or co-host of a number of series, including Real People (1979; 1981-1983), What's Hot, What's Not (1985-1986; Daytime Emmy nomination) and D.C. Follies (1987-1989), which probably helped him develop his specialty — playing unashamedly oblivious hosts in a series of movie comedies.
Beginning with 1984's This Is Spinal Tap, Willard was the go-to guy for the mockumentary genre. For Christopher Guest, he appeared in Waiting for Guffman (1996), Best in Show (2000), A Mighty Wind (2003), For Your Consideration (2006) and Mascots (2016).
Other TV highlights include Everybody Loves Raymond (2003-2005), for which he received three Emmy nominations, and Modern Family (2009-2020), on which he played the father of Ty Burrell's Phil Dunphy, Frank Dunphy, who — ironically — died of old age on the series in early 2020.
Willard's final work will be seen on 10 episodes of Space Force, a parody set to stream on Netflix at the end of May.
Preceded in death by his wife of 50 years Mary in 2018, Willard is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, and by his grandson.
Check out some of the remembrances posted by his peers on social media here.