Willard made dozens of appearances in various comedy bits, playing characters such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, George Washington's ghost, and Donald Trump's father in Hell. Kimmel said, “We loved being around Fred. We loved having him with us.”
Kimmel also shared a story about buying Willard a Christmas tree and June. He compared the late actor to the summer time Christmas tree saying, “[Willard was] a little weird, familiar, but still surprising to see it, full of good memories and you're just instantly happy that it's there.”
Fred touched many people with his comedy, and several of his former co-stars and friends also made appearances throughout the tribute show to share memories of the beloved character actor. “He was a genius,” recalled Everybody Loves Raymond co-star Ray Romano.
One particularly touching moment occurred when Modern Family star Ty Burrell revealed that the success of his character was born out of Willard’s comedy. “The truth is that I was so heavily influenced by Fred's style as a performer and his good-natured obliviousness that there would be no Phil Dunphy without Fred Willard,” said Burrell.
This wasn’t the first time Kimmel paid tribute to Willard. In 2014, they did a bit in which Kimmel gave a memorial speech, read off cue cards held by Willard. In the bit, Willard wants to be remembered as a “true humanitarian,” however his penmanship is so bad Kimmel can’t read the cue card. So it was both fitting and heartbreaking in Sunday’s tribute, when Kimmel remembered his friend as a “true humanitarian.”
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