Mull and Willard continued their partnership in 1985 on the HBO comedy miniseries "The History of White People in America." The pair also played a gay couple as recurring characters on ABC's "Roseanne" from 1995 to 1997.
Another testament to Willard's character was the fact that his personality never changed over the years despite his fame and ubiquity on TV in such series as "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Modern Family."
Over time, Mull had a key insight that helped him learn to fall into a good groove with Willard.
"Fernwood" was developed as a summer replacement series for Lear's daytime soap opera satire "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." The series, which ran in the summer of 1977 and again from April-August of 1978 under the title "America 2Night," has been a seminal influence on the current generation of mockumentary and satirical comedies.
Fred Willard was a gifted comedian whose unique style and improv roots made him a formidable performer. That's how his longtime friend and frequent collaborator Martin Mull remembered Willard, who died May 15 at the age of 86.
"Fred was still inexplicably funny in social situations. When you were at a party at his house, you never knew where he was going but it was always just a delight," Mull said. "He was as kind and as gentle and as warm and generous a person as you could ever want to meet."
The character was always the joke for him," Mull recalled. "He was such a delight to work with." "He never went for the joke. He went for the character.
He didn't tip it." He had such a closet that he could go to. It was just remarkable. "He worked so spontaneously. "He was absolutely, unconditionally original," Mull told Variety. You never where he was going to go.
Willard's skill at improv and going off script kept other performers on their toes, and inspired them to rise to his level, Mull added. "You'd be struggling to keep up with him sometimes," he said.
We could go off script," Mull said. "He was a genius." "Fred and I could improvise together. The heart of the show was the unspoken "synch" between Mull and Willard.
Mull and Willard met in 1977 on the set of "Fernwood 2-nite," the syndicated talk show spoof produced by Norman Lear. Mull played noxious, leisure suit-loving host Barth Gimble. Willard played his dim-witted sidekick Jerry Hubbard who was known to pop off with nonsequitors and stern opinions about trivial matters.
(Pictured: Fred Willard, Martin Mull)” />

Sarah Snook (“Predestination”) shows up for a brief but memorable coda to the mayhem. Jeff, who fancies himself a well-organized criminal mastermind but only succeeds at over-complicating the simplest of plans, has given the boys the day to prepare for the deed, which proves to be a mistake: Terry grows increasingly reluctant to go through with it, and the early arrival of both the frail Rodger and Mum herself, who doesn’t let cancer or a walker get in her way, throws their far-from-best-laid plans into disarray.
An early temptation to laugh at the squabbling siblings slowly yields to a feeling of yearning melancholy, as the profoundly misguided absurdity of their plan becomes evident. Credit Jaime Browne’s seditiously emotional script and the Jacobsons’ on-screen chemistry for delivering a well-placed curveball to audiences expecting something more Coen brothers-esque (though Richard Pleasance’s plaintive score seems intent on summoning Carter Burwell’s work on “Fargo”).
Though brimming with pitch-black comedy, “Brothers’ Nest” actually plays like more of an absurdist tragedy as it pits good brother against good-brother-gone-bad in a cautionary tale of longing and desperation that packs a surprisingly affecting punch. Twenty-two years after their breakout mockumentary hit “Kenny,” which followed a big-hearted plumber described as “the Dalai-Lama of Waste Management” as he touched the lives of many, brothers Shane and Clayton Jacobson are back with a very different kind of vehicle that nevertheless continues to showcase their distinctive, blue-collar sibling interplay.
In chilliest rural Victoria, mastermind Jeff (Clayton Jacobson, looking for all the world like a much huskier Martin Mull) and his nervous little brother Terry (Shane Jacobson) arrive early at the house in which they were raised. Ominously, they have to break in, and as they prepare for some kind of intricate crime, it is soon revealed that their plan involves murder most foul.
Once again displaying an instinctive feel for space and blocking after his work on “Kenny,” director Clayton Jacobson makes the most of the increasingly claustrophobic ranch house and its collection of vintage radios and bric-a-brac.
Having already made its international launch earlier this year at the SXSW Film Festival, “Brothers’ Nest” opens locally June 21.” />
The target of the mission is their stepfather Rodger (Kim Gyngell), whom Jeff is convinced is about to cheat them out of an inheritance coming due following the imminent death of their cancer-stricken Mum (Lynette Curran). A complicated family history fuels Jeff’s paranoia.