This week in late night starts off on a sad note. One of the best late night guests ever, Fred Willard, has passed away at age 86. Wherever Fred Willard appeared on late night television, he made it all the funnier. That even includes a fake late night talk show called “Fernwood 2 Night” which ran in the 1970’s. On “Fernwood“, Fred Willard played sidekick Jerry Hubbard to Martin Mull’s late night host character Barth Gimble.
Fred Willard will be best known for his appearances in the Christopher Guest films like “Waiting for Guffman“, “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind” where he was an absolute scene-stealer. He made a career out of back-up comedy like in “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle“, “Anchorman” and its sequels, along with his 4 time Emmy Award nominated television career on “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Modern Family” where he was cast perfectly as the father to star character Phil Dunphy. He also had an entire separate career in voice-work for kids cartoons that would be the envy of any actor.
And all this time, he maintained his status as a fantastic guest on late night talk shows. He made outrageous appearances on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman. the Late Show with David Letterman, and the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. More recently, Jimmy Kimmel Live became his late night home. Jimmy Kimmel knew how to mine Fred Willard for comedy gold in bits that worked and bits that didn’t work and that somehow became even funnier.
A few of the characters Fred Willard played on Jimmy Kimmel Live included President George Washington (“Jefferson! That Num-Nuts!”), Donald Trump’s Party Planner, a Carnival Cruise Line Captain, a Decorative Wind-Chime Salesman, a Test-Taker involved in the College Cheating Scandal, A NASA Scientist, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Florida Election Official, an Iowa Election Official, Donald Trump’s Father, Santa Claus, and a Captain in Trump’s Space Force battling Space Pirates in a revival of his own series 1978 sitcom, “Space Force” which never got off the launch pad.
Every knows that Jimmy Kimmel has a deep fondness for the comedy greats. He had no problem shedding several tears on national television over losing the iconic Don Rickles and when David Letterman retired. This will be no different for Kimmel. Monday night, Jimmy Kimmel Live will be entirely dedicated to Fred Willard and his many, many appearances on JKL. Kimmel will never be accused on not appreciating a great comedian while they were still alive. He not only appreciates them. He puts them to work.
Don’t expect Tuesday night to be any easier on your tear ducts than Monday. On Tuesday, Ben Stiller is making his first late night appearance since recently losing his dad, the legendary Jerry Stiller. The man had an outstanding career in comedy from his days on “The Ed Sullivan Show” with his hilariously talented wife Anne Meara as part of the comedy team of Stiller & Meara or later in life on the sitcoms “Seinfeld” and “The King of Queens.” On Tuesday, Ben Stiller joins Jimmy Fallon remotely to remember the comedy great and his father, Jerry Stiller.
And if the Tonight Show wasn’t already amazing enough on Tuesday, Jimmy Fallon goes from talking about a comedy legend to a new comedy pioneer. He’ll also have Australia’s Hannah Gadsby on the show on Tuesday night. Hannah Gadsby who stunned the comedy world with her 2018 Netflix special, “Nanette” is back with a brand new hour for the streaming giant. “Hannah Gadsby: Douglas” will premiere on Netflix on Tuesday, May 26th.
Just keep your television on NBC on Tuesday night because after a great Tonight Show lineup, you don’t want to miss Late Night with Seth Meyers. Seth’s guest on Tuesday is the hilarious Tom Papa. The funniest bread-baker in comedy has a new book out which he’ll be talking about on Late Night called “You’re Doing Great!: And Other Reasons To Stay Alive.” Tom Papa’s latest book has more very funny stories about his family in his latest book and he turns the simple things in life like coffee, wine, and dogs into pure comedy. It’s the book you need right now during a pandemic.
Wednesday Night gives us tons of comedy. Be sure to check the full listings below all week so you don’t miss any of your favorites. Jimmy Kimmel Live has Patton Oswalt who you can see in the new season 7 of “Reno 911!” which is now available Quibi.
Later that night, James Corden remotely welcomes Simon Pegg to the Late Late Show. Peggy has a very busy schedule once the pandemic lifts and movie sets return to business. He’s got more “Mission Impossible” movies coming up as well as another sequel in the most recent “Star Trek” series of films. Plus, there is buzz going around once again about a possible “Hot Fuzz 2“. Hopefully, James Corden will pose that question about another “Hot Fuzz” to Simon Pegg when he has him on the phone on Wednesday night.
Thursday night, Jimmy Kimmel continues his second straight week of crushing it with the comedy bookings. He has gotten the best of the best to camera-chat with him and on Thursday, he’s joined by Kevin Hart. That’s a man who has to be going stir crazy because Kevin Hart cannot sit still. He has a need to be out making comedy. We’ll see how he’s handling quarantine when he talks to Jimmy Kimmel on JKL on Thursday.
There’s also a remote reunion on Thursday evening when Steve Carell is booked on the Late Show with his old Daily Show cohort Stephen Colbert. The two were part of Jon Stewart’s news team on the Daily Show and they’ll be back together to talk about Carell’s new Netflix series, “Space Force.” Yes, reality and comedy are colliding again with Donald Trump recently unveiling the new flag for this latest branch of our of real life military. Steve Carell’s “Space Force” premieres Friday, May 29th on Netflix. Who knows when the real Space Force begins conquering the galaxy!?
Finally on Thursday, make sure you have room on your DVR for the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon when his remote guests will be two of England’s funniest, Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon. The comedy team who made you fall in love with them in “The Trip” in 2010 are back on the road again. Coogan & Brydon play fictionalized versions of themselves on a road trip visiting local restaurants.
In the original “The Trip“, the pair toured Northern England. That was followed by “The Trip to Italy” and “The Trip to Spain.” All of these efforts were directed by the incomparable Michael Winterbotoom. The trio are combining forces again for “The Trip to Greece.” One interesting aspect of these “Trips” is that they were first broadcast as a TV series and then the episodes were combined into a feature road film. “The Trip to Greece” is being released as a buddy comedy movie by IFC Films on Friday, May 22nd.
On Friday night, Bill Maher is back with a new episode of Real Time on HBO from Bill’s own backyard. If you like some laughs and a bit of panic with your pandemic, Real Time with Bill Maher is the place to be to start your weekend. Also, if you didn’t catch Jimmy Kimmel’s tribute to Fred Willard on Monday, ABC is re-airing on Friday night’s JKL.
Remember if you can’t sleep at night during the pandemic, don’t worry there’s plenty of late night comedy. Plus, you can always sleep on the job the next day. After all, you’re working from home. So stay up late and laugh!