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Behind the Curtain

Fred Willard

Fred Willard.  Photo by WireImage: Michael Caulfield.
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Fred Willard, born and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio, got his start performing in a comedy duo at Chicago's famed Second City. He was a founding member of the improvisational comedy group Ace Trucking Company, with which he appeared on The Tonight Show more than 40 times, on The Tom Jones Show and in clubs across the country.

When the troupe moved to Los Angeles, he broke into series television with an appearance on Laverne & Shirley. Willard's improvisational performance as Buck Laughlin in Best in Show won an American Comedy Award for Funniest Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Feature Film. He also appeared in the Christopher Guest vérité-comedy film Waiting for Guffman, for which he was nominated for both an American Comedy Award and the Screen Actor's Guild Funniest Supporting Actor.

Additional film credits include This Is Spinal Tap, Roxanne, The Wedding Planner, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Idle Hands. Other films include the Harry Shearer-directed independent comedy Teddy Bears' Picnic, the comedy How High with Hector Elizondo, Spalding Gray and Method Man, and The Year That Trembled, set in the shadow of Kent State University in 1970.

As a television performer, Willard received an Emmy nomination for his role as Martin Mull's gay lover on Roseanne. The two had previously co-starred in Norman Lear's innovative cult classic talk-show satire Fernwood 2-Night. He was an original co-host of Real People, has had recurring roles on Ally McBeal, The Simpsons, King of the Hill and Mad About You and also portrayed Howard Cosell in the television movie When Billie Beat Bobbie. Willard also starred with Julia Sweeney in the critically acclaimed WB series, Maybe It's Me. In addition, he has appeared more than 50 times on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

His theater credits include off-Broadway performances in Little Murders directed by Alan Arkin and Arf and regional roles in Call Me Madame (Chicago), and in Los Angeles Promises, Promises with Jason Alexander, Wendy Wasserstein's Isn't It Romantic? and Elvis and Juliet, which was written by Willard's wife.

He recently completed a sold-out run of his one-man show, Fred Willard: Alone at Last! (actually a sketch show with a cast of 12) for which he received two Los Angeles Artistic Director Awards for Best Comedy and Best Production.