Actor and Emmy-nominated comic Fred Willard is going to the dogs, this time in the name of charity. Willard, whose film roles include the clueless dog-show color commentator Buck Laughlin in the movie “Best in Show,” is reprising that role at a fund raiser on Sept. 28 for Actors and Others for Animals.
The Hollywood organization, which promotes humane causes, boasts celebrity animal advocate members, including Betty White, Lily Tomlin and Jo Anne Worley, the group’s current president.
I spoke to Willard about the upcoming fundraiser and about his love for animals.
Q. Your role in “Best in Show’’ permanently associated you with dog shows, but your real passion is for the humane treatment of all animals. Tell me about the upcoming fundraising show.
A. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Jim Piddock, who co-starred as the announcer with me in “Best in Show,’’ together we are going to be doing a live performance, looking at and judging videos of celebrities, who taped their dogs being cute, funny, and talented. And of course I will be commenting on each of them.
Q. Let’s talk about the important work of Actors and Others for Animals, how this organization helps those with low and fixed incomes care for their pets.
A. They do a lot of great work, but the main goal is to help people get their pets spayed and neutered, which is a very good idea. There are so many dogs and cats that nobody wants, so they are put to sleep, which is very sad.
I just recently learned that the organization was started in 1971 by actor Richard Basehart and his wife, who wanted to promote the humane treatment of animals after they witnessed something terrible. They were driving down the freeway and saw someone throw a dog out onto the freeway. I became involved through my wife, Mary, who has been on the board.
Q. You are actively involved in a promoting a number of humane organizations.
A. Well, I love animals. We have a little cat that kind of adopted us, a neihborhood cat someone abandoned that started coming around to our house. And now he has become part of our family. His name is Mittenz. Originally it was mittens, but then we discovered he was a male.
Q. Have you always had animals?
A. No, for many years we couldn’t have a cat or dog because my wife and I lived in apartments in New York and LA.
Q. Have you ever had a dog?
A. When I was young I had a Cocker Spaniel puppy named Bingo. I still love Cocker Spaniels, they are just so cute. But we lived in an area in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and one day Bingo almost got run over by a car. So my parents decided to give him to someone who had a farm. I never saw him again but I am sure he led a wonderful life there.
Q. So now you are into cats?
A. For several years we fed stray cats that came around our house. We put food out, and that also attracted possums and skunks. If it were up to me we would feed everything, but those stray cats would never let us get close to them, even after several years of feeding them. Then Mittenz came along.
Q. Anything else people should know about the Sept. 28 fundraiser?
A. I am very excited about it. I heard that Nancy Sinatra and Tippi Hedren will be there. It’s just a great cause and it will be a lot of fun.
The event will be emceed by Mike Burger, and guests Leonard Maltin, Susan Sullivan, Ed Begley, Jr., Allie MacKay, Alan Thicke, Jay Johnson, Weird Al Yankovic, Bernie Shine and others will share a video of their pet attempting to be the cutest, funniest or most lovable of the group in order to be named “Best in Show.” Fred Willard and Jim Piddock will be critiquing them as only those two comedians can.
To learn more and get tickets or help sponsor the event, click here.