So Fred Willard allegedly whipped it out in a Hollywood movie theater. And now he's gotten the boot from PBS. But he will always go down as a pretty cool dude in our book, as he interviewed none other than a young Tom Waits in one of the best videos of all time.
Now Fred Willard is certainly not the star of this exchange -- it's basically impossible to outshine Tom Waits in his prime -- but he still is a party to the creation of one of the salty singer's most entertaining interviews, and a classic live performance of his inimitable The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not me).
Fred Willard and his long-forgotten co-host on Fernwood Tonight actually do a pretty good job of handling Waits, who appears mightily soused, and they actually get a pretty good barb or two in between the crooner's peerless one-liners, while maintaining their straight-men schtick fairly well.
But Fred Willard and the other guy can't quite keep it together, and Willard cracks up and stutters a number of times in the course of the Fernwood Tonight episode, during which he seems a little taken aback by Tom Waits and his unique way of speaking and interacting with folks.
And he even ends up loaning Tom, who's supposedly down on his luck after his van broke down, $20 to get back on his feet.
And Tom Waits gives one of his all-time best quotes in the course of the conversation, one that has spawned many tee-shirts, posters and Facebook statuses:
I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy, Tom Waits slurred, securing his place in history as one of the all-time coolest drunks.
He goes on to give a rollicking performance of The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) that has to be seen to be believed, and that has kept the Fernwood Tonight video with good ol' Frank Willard in the constant rotation of Tom Waits buffs since it hit YouTube on March 26, 2006, notching nearly 600,000 views in that time (and only 30 dislikes, most likely from members of the Mitt Romney 2012 campaign staff.)
Click play below to watch the classic Fernwood Tonight video starring Fred Willard, Tom Waits and some other dude: