Actor-comedian Fred Willard passed away on Friday at the age of 86. Over the past several years, he had made frequent appearances on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, playing a-gallery of colorful characters. Tonight, Kimmel remembered Willard on his ABC show.
“Tonight’ show – will be a special show – it will be a sad show. But we will also laugh a lot as we pay tribute to a lovely and genuinely funny man named Fred Willard,” Kimmel said at the top of the episode.
Kimmel shared a childhood memory of watching a talk show parody program starring Martin Mull and Fred Willard when he was five. Kimmel went on to list some of Willard’s most memorable film and TV roles in Christopher Guest’s Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, the Anchorman movies and Modern Family, among others.
ESPN Sets '30 For 30' Series On 1986 Mets From Executive Producer Jimmy Kimmel
:Fred played – basically the same character – in everything. Because it always worked, ” Kimmel said. “It didn’t matter if the movie or show was good, bad, terrible or great – Fred was always funny. He was more than just funny. He had a light inside him – you could see a glint of it in his eyes – and it made everyone around him happy.”
Kimmel spoke fondly of the slew of characters Willard played on JKL, from Ruth Bader Ginsburg; George Washington’s Ghost and Donald Trump’s father in Hell tp balloon boy and Carnival Cruise PR Director. He told the story of how Willard started doing the skits and how they grew into a vital part of the show.
“Sometimes he’d be in two bits per monologue. I couldn’t choose between them so I’d say – you know what, just let’s do a quick costume change – we’ll put him on twice. We could not get enough Fred,” Kimmel said. “He never had any time to prepare for these bits – we’d call him at noon – we’d say ‘Hey, today, you’re gonna be a boat captain’ – he’d say ;aye aye’ – he’d be on set by two – we’d do one run through of the script, that was usually not finished yet – and then he and I would do it – with no rehearsal – live in front of an audience. And he nailed it every time. Dozens of times. Up to 86 years old.”
Kimmel went on to pay a montage of some of Willard’s most memorable moments on the show. Watch the video above.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.