John Witherspoon, known to many as one of the funniest men in show business, has passed away. With his divine brand of slapstick humor, Witherspoon has delightfully enchanted us through the years, with brilliant portrayals of some of the most memorable characters in pop culture. He departed this life on Tuesday, October 29, 2019, at his home in Sherman Oaks, California. He was 77.
Born in the motor city of Detroit, Michigan, Witherspoon started his career as a stand-up comic. In 1979, he obtained his first television role on the detective sitcom Barnaby Jones. On Barnaby Jones, Witherspoon guest starred as a counselor. Later, Witherspoon appeared on a plethora of popular sitcoms which included WKRP in Cincinnati, Hill Street Blues, What’s Happening!!, Good Times, and The Incredible Hulk. Soon after, he became a regular on The Richard Pryor Show, and years later, obtained recurring roles on The Wayans Bros, and the Tracy Morgan Show.
Witherspoon soon graced the big screen in feature films such as, Hollywood Shuffle (1987), I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988), Boomerang (1992), The Meteor Man (1993), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), and most notably, all three films of the Friday franchise as Willie “Pops” Jones, alongside O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson. Witherspoon has also appeared in a multitude of music videos. In 2000, he was featured as Jay-Z’s grumpy, yet hilarious next door neighbor in the video for his mega hit, “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)”. In 2003, he performed on two of the Disney channel’s most popular animated series, The Proud Family and Kim Possible. From 2005-2014, he voiced Robert “Granddad” Freeman on the popular, Arron McGruder created animated show The Boondocks, on Adult Swim.
In 2008, Witherspoon went back to his stand-up roots and started a comedy tour that premiered on Showtime. He continued to tour throughout 2009, and in December 2011, he performed once again at the Funny Bone comedy club at Harrah’s Casino in Tunica, Mississippi. Many entertainers whom Witherspoon has collaborated with, expressed an outpouring of heartfelt condolences on social media, with Ice Cube tweeting, “I’m devastated over the passing of John Witherspoon. Life won’t be as funny without him.” Witherspoon is survived by his wife, Angela, and two sons, JD and Alexander. His incredible body of work, along with his energetic spirit, will be sincerely missed.
Ashly E. Smith is an author, poet, columnist, and freelance writer from Baltimore, Maryland. With her strong pop culture and entertainment backgrounds, Ashly strives to create articles that inspire as well as entertain.