Late Night Lately: Remembering Fred Willard and Jerry Stiller

8:00 AM 5/23/2020

by THR Staff

The Hollywood Reporter's Late Night Lately rounds up the best sketches and guests with a look at what's to come next week.

From left: Fred Willard, Jerry Stiller, Joe Biden
From left: Fred Willard, Jerry Stiller, Joe Biden
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic; Steve Granitz/WireImage; Screen Grab/CBS

The Hollywood Reporter's Late Night Lately is a one-stop shop for all of the most memorable moments of late night TV, coming to you each Saturday morning to ease you into your weekend.

So pour your coffee, set your DVR for the week and sit back. Below are a few of the week's best, funniest and strangest late night moments that you can't afford to miss.

This week: Jimmy Kimmel paid tribute to the late Fred Willard, a comedy legend and Jimmy Kimmel Live! mainstay over the years. "He was more than just funny. He had a light inside him; you could see a glint of it in his eyes," said Kimmel. Meanwhile, Ben Stiller joined The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to share memories of his late father, Jerry Stiller. "He was a very, very supportive dad," he told host Fallon. Elsewhere, Joe Biden spoke with Stephen Colbert about Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and John Oliver cautioned against reopening sporting events too early. 

— Compiled by Jennifer Konerman 

  • Jimmy Kimmel Pays Tribute to Fred Willard

    Randy Holmes/ABC

    After collaborating with Fred Willard over the years, Jimmy Kimmel paid tribute to the actor and comedy icon on his Monday show. The late night host dedicated the night to remembering Willard, who died Friday at the age of 86. "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 said.

    After Willard co-hosted one of Kimmel's late-night shows, the JKL host had the actor back several times, to the point where he became "a very regular part of our show," Kimmel said. In the summer of 2018, Willard's wife, Mary, had just died, and "we wanted to come up with something for him to do." When Trump announced his Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. military and the JKL team learned Willard had starred in the 1978 TV movie Space Force, they asked him to reprise his role in a bit.

    Later, Kimmel said, "we started putting him in everything, every sketch." There were times, he added, when his writing team would pitch five ideas a day for Willard. "Sometimes he'd be in two bits per monologue ... we could not get enough Fred," Kimmel said. In a video compilation of his appearances, Willard can be seen playing Fred C. Trump, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a Florida man named "Goose Halpern," among many other roles.

    Later in the show, Kimmel invited some of Willard's notable collaborators to record memories of the actor. His Waiting for Guffman co-star Catherine O'Hara remembered him as "wildly, unbelievably funny," which helped her to overcome her nerves on the movie. Director Christopher Guest recalled once running out of film on a movie and yelling "Cut!," to which Willard replied, "I'm not finished." Guest said, "I think he could have gone on forever. He had an astounding gift."

    Eugene Levy, who worked with Willard on Best in Show and other films, recalled being concerned that the third act of that movie wouldn't be entertaining until director Guest suggested Willard could be the color commentator. "All you had to do was mention Fred Willard as the color commentator and the entire act was going to be funny," Levy said.

    Willard's Modern Family co-stars Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen also contributed memories, as did Ray Romano (who worked with him on Everybody Loves Raymond), collaborator Martin Mull and Norman Lear (who worked with him on Fernwood 2 Night and other titles). "I never enjoyed anyone in our business, the entertainment business, as much as Fred Willard. I loved him as a man. I adored him as a character," Lear said.

  • Ben Stiller Shares Memories of "Supportive" Dad Jerry Stiller

    Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic

    While Jerry Stiller will forever be remembered for his role as the cantankerous, loud-mouthed father to George Costanza on Seinfeld, Ben Stiller, his son, said he was surprisingly much quieter in person.

    Following the death of his father last week at the age of 92, Stiller appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to share memories and reflect on his comedic legacy.

    Stiller and Fallon both commented on how despite being so boisterous onscreen, Jerry "couldn't be more opposite in real life."

    Stiller noted much of that suppression came from his father's upbringing, of which he was "very, very poor. His dad was a bus driver in Depression-era New York City." He added that's likely why a majority of his father's characters were larger than life — "That's where it would come out, in the characters."

    The host remembered having famed husband-and-wife comedy duo Stiller and Meara along with Ben on the show to play charades.

    "It's one of the most ridiculous things ever," Stiller said. "It's my dad and my mom, and they were such a unit together and had this amazing chemistry." The actor noted with that bit, it showed the natural comedy that flowed from his father, who "wouldn't go for a laugh. … He'd just be himself."

    Fallon also asked if the elder Stiller would see his son perform in the city.

    "Yeah, he came to everything. He was a very, very supportive dad," Stiller said. "I remember the first job I had was a play in New York, The House of Blue Leaves. … He would do what they call 'second acting': He'd come in during the second act. … He'd do that all the time because he just wanted to watch and enjoy it."

  • Joe Biden Criticizes Trump's Handling of Pandemic

    John Lamparski/Getty Images; Gary Gershoff/WireImage

    Former Vice President Joe Biden joined Stephen Colbert on The Late Show on Thursday night, where they chatted about the novel coronavirus pandemic and Biden's criteria for a potential vice president. 

    As the world tries to grapple with the pandemic, Biden was quick to criticize President Donald Trump for his handling of the virus crisis and failing at offering answers.

    "Why don't you tell the American people the truth? They're tough. They can handle it," Biden said. He later emphasized that it's unfortunate the pandemic wasn't confronted faster, arguing that had Trump began tackling the virus even a week earlier, "it would've saved 37,000 lives." "People are dying because of this negligence and it has to stop," Biden said. 

    After Biden expressed how he disagrees with Trump's method in handling everything, Colbert questioned what exactly Biden would do differently in tackling the pandemic. 

    "Our allies are working on a vaccine that could help make a breakthrough possible. We should be able to take advantage of that and be with them," Biden said. He also assured that, should he be elected, he would appropriate $25 billion from Congress to "scale up manufacturing so there's no delay once the vaccine is found." 

  • John Oliver Cautions Against Hasty Return of Sporting Events

    Courtesy of HBO

    John Oliver spent the main segment of the latest Last Week Tonight lamenting the loss of professional and collegiate sports but cautioning against a hasty return of such events.

    Citing a report that said $12 billion in revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs are being lost amid the pandemic, Oliver noted that it wasn't just the high-paid athletes who account for that, and that minimum-wage staff like stadium cooks and others are suffering without an income. 

    He noted that the state of Florida decided early on that professional sports and media production with a national audience were essential, as long as the public was unable to attend. That led to the WWE, rival AEW and the UFC to proceed with fights. However, an anonymous WWE staffer complained that there was no way the production crew could maintain social distancing and not touch other crewmembers. And a UFC fighter and two of his cornerman recently tested positive, "underscoring the fact that if you want to come back completely without risk, that's just not possible right now," Oliver said. "And yet many sports organizations are feeling real pressure to ignore that risk," including sports college programs, where football programs pull in a lot of revenue.

    Oliver then turned to professional sports, focusing on Major League Baseball, which at first said it would stage all games in Arizona and put players in hotel rooms. But, as Oliver noted, "the complication is that it wouldn't be isolating just players." In addition, coaching staff, team physicians, umpires, camera crews and many more people working behind the scenes would need to be isolated and frequently tested. He cited a report saying that such a scenario would require around 10,000 people to be isolated, all of whom would need to be constantly tested.

    "I will own the fact that I really want sports to come back," Oliver said. "There is no doubt that they have the ability to inspire. One of the things sport does best is bring people together in times of crisis, like when the [New York] Yankees resumed playing after 9/11. Unfortunately, though, bringing people together is the exact thing we should not be doing right now. … If it comes back too soon and irresponsibly, it won't be an inspiration, it'll be a cautionary tale."

    Oliver's advice: Phase sports back in slowly, wIth "tailored approaches that take into account each sport's level of contact" and incorporate "robust systems of testing and tracing."

  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Reacts to Cecily Strong's 'SNL' Impression

    NBC

    Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shared her reaction to Cecily Strong's impression of her on Saturday Night Live when she visited Late Night With Seth Meyers on Monday.

    Strong appeared as the governor in a sketch titled "Message From Gov. Whitmer" during the April 25 episode of SNL. In the segment, Strong encouraged Michigan residents to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. "Stay home," Strong said in the parody of Whitmer. "I promise you can call me a bitch from the safety of your couch. It's called Twitter." 

    After she shared that Strong's impression was "funny," the politician offered the comedian some constructive criticism.

    Whitmer suggested that host Meyers might be able to help Strong improve her Michigan accent. The governor also said that she thought the brand of beer used in the sketch was inauthentic. "I have to tell you, I love Canada, but I drink Michigan beer. Not Labatt's," she said. In the sketch, Strong drank Labatt beer while sitting on her deck as she told protesters to get off of her property.

    The politician sent Strong a care package of Michigan beer, as well as a T-shirt and other merchandise that promoted the beverage. The comedian showcased the gift on her Instagram account. "Got a giant and gorgeous Michigan care package sent to New York courtesy of that super cool woman from Michigan," Strong captioned the post. "Honestly, this blew me away!"

    "It was hard to send it. I wanted to hold onto it," Whitmer joked about the gift of beer.