Comic actor Fred Willard of ‘Best in Show’ and ‘Modern Family’ dies at 86

Fred Willard, the comic actor considered by many a master of the mockumentary genre, died Friday at age 86.

Willard was best known for his roles in Christopher Guest films such as « Best in Show » and « A Mighty Wind, » and over the course of his long career he made an art of dry humor that brought laughs in goofy, subtle and understated ways.

His deep range lent itself to scene-stealing roles on sitcoms such as « Everybody Loves Raymond » and « Modern Family. » He even appeared as the only human character in the animated film « WALL-E, » a first for a Pixar film.

« It is with a heavy heart that I share the news my father passed away very peacefully last night at the fantastic age of 86 years old, » Hope Willard tweeted on Saturday. « He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end. We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever. »

Willard was one of Hollywood’s busiest comedic actors with a career that lasted more than 50 years, including his turn as sidekick Jerry Hubbard on the satire « Fernwood 2 Night » in the 1970s. He recently finished filming the Netflix series “Space Force,” where he played actor Steve Carell’s father.

« Fred Willard was the funniest person that I’ve ever worked with. He was a sweet, wonderful man, » Carrell said in a tweet.

From 2003 to 2005, Willard was nominated for three Emmy Awards for playing Hank on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” He was nominated a fourth time in 2010 his recurring role as Frank Dunphy, the father of Ty Burrell’s Phil Dunphy, on “Modern Family.”

« Modern Family » cast members Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who play one of the most beloved gay couples on TV, expressed their condolences on social media.

« It was a privilege to have the great Fred Willard know my name. Rest In Peace Fred. You were funny in your bones, » Stonestreet said.

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