Fred Willard receives a heartfelt tribute from Jimmy Kimmel Live

Fred Willard (Photo by Chris Weeks/Getty Images for American Humane Association)
Fred Willard (Photo by Chris Weeks/Getty Images for American Humane Association) /

Jimmy Kimmel Live! celebrated the life and career of comedian Fred Willard on Monday night’s show.

Fred Willard passed away on May 15, leaving behind a legacy in comedy that spanned 60 years. His life, career, and contributions to late night television were celebrated on a special episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Monday night.

Willard’s obituary in The New York Times perfectly encapsulates his ability to play characters “gloriously out of their depth.” An improvisational genius, Willard excelled at playing characters who were oblivious but confident, jovial but aloof.

His film credits include the amazing Christopher Guest documentaries Waiting for GuffmanBest in Show, and For Your Consideration. Other titles on Willard’s resume include This Is Spinal TapAnchorman, and WALL-E.

Television was where Willard truly made his mark. Beyond his starring roles in Fernwood 2 Night and America 2 Night, Willard appeared in practically every major television comedy produced over the past six decades. The Bob Newhart ShowLaverne & ShirleySaturday Night Live, SCTV Network, The Simpsons, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, Family Guy, and Modern Family all appear on Willard’s resume.

Recently Willard made a number of appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! playing any character the show needed. It proved that even in his 80s, Willard was one of the funniest people on television. The ABC late night show dedicated Monday’s episode to Willard, starting with a tribute from Jimmy Kimmel.

Kimmel shares the heartwarming story of filming a piece at Willard’s home when the actor was feeling down about his Christmas tree being thrown out six months after the holiday. The gesture by Jimmy Kimmel Live! to deliver a new tree shows how revered Willard was and allows Kimmel to make the quirky but fitting comparison between Willard and a Christmas tree in June.

In a bizarre twist, it was President Trump’s creation of the Space Force that led to Willard’s run of hilarious Jimmy Kimmel Live! appearances. And it is fitting that Willard’s last television appearance will be in the Netflix series Space Force coming later this month.

Kimmel shares a highlight reel of Willard’s appearances on the show as a guest and as some of his many memorable characters. The tribute to Willard also included messages from many of his co-stars and collaborators over the years including Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, and Martin Mull.

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It is hard to think of someone more beloved by audiences and colleagues than Fred Willard. He is a comedy legend and well-deserving of the tribute he received from Jimmy Kimmel Live!. What was your favorite Willard character on Kimmel or elsewhere? Let us know in the comment section below.