American comedian and actor Fred Willard was born on September 18, 1939 in Shaker Heights, Ohio. He was sent to the Kentucky Military Institute by mutual consent with his stepfather; there he became a member of the varsity baseball team. He then went on to graduate with an English degree from the Virginia Military Institute. He continued playing baseball during this time, and even after while he served the U.S. Army, as he aspired to play the sport professionally. However, after his military service, he went to New York City and trained as an actor.
Willard is an alumnus of The Second City, a comedy group in Chicago. With this training, he went on to found the improv group Ace Trucking Company, as well as head a sketch comedy workshop, The MoHo Group. His first stab at fame, however, came through his role as the impossibly dense sidekick Jerry Hubbard on Fernwood 2 Night and its subsequent versions. Wider fame, however, came through his roles in several of Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries, including Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, This is Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman.
Willard also played several memorable roles on television. He was part of the short-lived sitcom Maybe It’s Me, which aired in 2001; there he played soccer-obsessed father Fred Willard. He also starred as the dim-witted sports anchor Marsh McGinley in another short-lived comedy, Back to You. His recurring role in the later episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond earned him Emmy nominations from 2003 to 2005. He also regularly contributed to sketches on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Saturday Night Live, and provided his voice to shows such as Family Guy and King of the Hill.
Willard also appeared in several more mainstream films. He had roles in films such as Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, American Wedding, Date Movie, Anchorman: The Legacy of Ron Burgundy and the live-action sequences in WALL-E. In 2010, he was cast as Phil's father on the ABC comedy Modern Family. Ty Burnell, who plays Phil, was also on the cast of Back to You.