It's the mark of a good film comedian when one of their lines enters your everyday lexicon. And so it is with me and Fred Willard, the film comedian who died last week at age 86. Any time I see a dog of the hound variety, I can't help but blurt out, "This is just an idea, but why don't they give him one of those Sherlock Holmes hats, and put a little pipe in his mouth?" On its face, it's a stupid, throwaway line, one that you might recognize from the 2000 comedy Best In Show. And yet Willard makes it so funny that it sticks with you. This was the mark of his talent, to render seemingly improvised asides as the main joke.
Three years ago, the organizers of Sketchfest decided to pull Willard out of the supporting role and give him a bona fide tribute in San Francisco, complete with co-stars, friends and the director Christopher Guest, with whom he made films like This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind and, of course, Best in Show. To honor him, Sketchfest has put the entire tribute to Willard up online for free, as part of a pivot to online offerings. Also on the Sketchfest site are past tributes to Molly Shannon, Peaches Christ, the cast of Airplane, and the cast of Best in Show—with more archival tributes added weekly. Details here.