Fred Willard Looks Back at Late-Night TV Guest Spots, Working With Christopher Guest
“I’ve always loved short, sweet, funny little sketches,” the star tells The Hollywood Reporter In Studio.
Fred Willard is an acclaimed television and film actor, having starred in successful projects like Best in Show, Modern Family, Anchorman and Waiting for Guffman, just to name a few. But there's another title that the actor has earned over his decades-long career: professional late-night talk show guest.
"I have a done a lot of guest spots on talk shows, either promoting something that I've been in, a movie or TV show, or doing little sketches on the programs, and I've always loved that. I've always loved short, sweet, funny little sketches," Willard told The Hollywood Reporter In Studio.
Willard's late-night talk show run has landed him on some of television's most well-known programs, including The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, The Late Show With David Letterman and his most recent slot of appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
"What amazes me is the audience he has. People will see me, just friends or on the street, and they'll say, 'I saw you on Kimmel last night.' I mean, he must have a huge audience," said Willard. "I've known Jimmy on and off for years. I used to go on as a guest when I was promoting a film or TV show, and I'd actually sit in front of the audience, so that was always fun."
Willard also discussed his long career starring in numerous Christopher Guest films, including Best in Show and Guest's directorial debut, Waiting for Guffman.
"That started to change everything," the actor said of Guffman. "I was thrilled to be working with people I worked with — Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy — I was such a fan of theirs, and Christopher Guest. I'd see him on Saturday Night Live, and I'd met him socially a few times, but it was just so much fun. It was like a party every day, or a picnic, doing those scenes. You never think it’s going to be seen in a theater audience. You were just doing it to try and get this story told, get in a joke or two, and when it came out, it did quite well."
As far as starring in any of Guest's future projects, Willard will be waiting by the phone for that call.
"There may be several. I never hear," he said. "I wait by the phone and luckily enough, the phone rings and Christopher says, 'Uh, Fred, I'm thinking about doing a new movie.' And I say, 'Oh, is this good news for me?' But luckily he's included me in almost everything he's done, so I've been very lucky from that."