John Witherspoon (actor)

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For the minister and signer of the Declaration of Independence, see John Witherspoon.
John Witherspoon
Born John Weatherspoon
(1942-01-27) January 27, 1942 (age 75)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Residence Sherman Oaks, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Actor, comedian
Years active 1977–present
Spouse(s) Angela Robinson (m.1988)
Children 2

John Witherspoon (born John Weatherspoon; January 27, 1942) is an American comedian and actor who has had roles in several films and television shows.[1]

Witherspoon is best known for his role as Willie Jones for the Friday series,[1] he has starred in films such as Hollywood Shuffle (1987) and Boomerang (1992).[1] He has also made appearances on television shows such as The Wayans Bros. (1995–99), The Tracy Morgan Show (2003), Barnaby Jones (1973), The Boondocks (2005), The Five Heartbeats and Black Jesus (2014).[1] He wrote a film, From the Old School, in which he played an elderly working man who tries to prevent a neighborhood convenience store from being developed into a strip club.


John Weatherspoon was born in Detroit, Michigan. He later changed his surname to "Witherspoon". One of 11 siblings, an elder brother, William, went on to become a songwriter in Detroit for Motown. He may be best known for "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" which became a hit for Jimmy Ruffin.

Another sibling, Cato Weatherspoon, was a longtime director of the PBS-TV Network/CH56 in Detroit, Michigan that span almost four decades. John Witherspoon is also related to Lamont Dozier who was a songwriter and record producer well known for hits coming from Martha & the Vandellas, The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Isley Brothers.

John continued his passion for music and learned how to play the trumpet and French Horn. Witherspoon did occasional work as a model. During the 1960s and 1970s, Witherspoon began to take a liking towards comedy. During that time he began his stand up comedy career. While doing stand up comedy he made many friends in the business. This included Tim Reid (while he was working on WKRP in Cincinnati and The Richard Pryor Show), Robin Williams (also on The Richard Pryor Show), Jay Leno, and David Letterman.

Personal life[edit]

Letterman and Witherspoon became such good friends that Witherspoon asked Letterman to be the godfather to his two sons. Letterman agreed. Witherspoon's stand up comedy career led to his comedian film career.[citation needed] His comical character was seen in his movies, TV shows, and now once again in his comedy tour. In 1988, he married Angela Robinson. They have two children, John David and Alexander.[citation needed]

Television career[edit]


Witherspoon's career as a stand up comedian made the transition into acting very easy. His first television appearance was on the 1970s CBS television show Barnaby Jones, which was about a father and daughter-in-law that ran a private detective and investigation firm in Los Angeles. In the episode he appeared in, he played the role of a camp counselor for kids who are drug addicts. The episode he was in was also Sean Penn's first acting job. Sean played the role of one of the kids that Witherspoon counseled in the camp.

After his appearance in Barnaby Jones, Witherspoon appeared in Good Times, What's Happening!! and The Incredible Hulk. In 1977, he became a regular on the series The Richard Pryor Show, an NBC American comedy series. This then led to his appearance in WKRP In Cincinnati in 1978 in the fourth season, episode 84. Witherspoon played Detective Davies.


In 1981, he appeared in Hill Street Blues, an NBC police drama, as a businessman who tries to buy a hotdog from an undercover Detective Belker. In 1981, he had an appearance on L.A. Law, an NBC legal drama, in the episode "On Your Honor" as Mark Steadman. In 1986, he was on the television series You Again? as Osborne. Next, Witherspoon was seen on Frank's Place (1987). In 1987 he made a guest appearance on 227, which was an NBC comedy about women who lived in a majority black apartment complex. The final show Witherspoon was in 1987 was What's Happening Now!!, the sequel to What's Happening!!.

A year later Witherspoon was in Amen (1988), an American television sitcom that ran on NBC, as the bailiff. The show was known for being one of the shows during the 1980s that featured an almost entirely black cast.

Witherspoon became known for his over the top characters in films like Boomerang with Eddie Murphy where he plays Mr Jackson, the ill-mannered father of Murphy's best friend. During a hilarious dinner scene, he tells Murphy's "Marcus" to take the upper hand in his relationship with Robin Givens's character "Jacqueline" simulating aggressive sex pumping his hips under the dinner table yelling "Bang bang...bang bang bang". The line has become a signature for Witherspoon and is often heard during his stand up routines. Next came spots on Townsend Television (1993), Cosmic Slop (1994), and Murder Was The Case (1994) as a drunk. Also in 1994, Witherspoon was in the NBC's Fresh Prince of Bel Air and played Augusteus in the episode "The Harder They Fall". Augusteus is the father of Lisa, the girl Will falls in love with, who is seen as stern and almost psychotic. In order to scare Will, he takes him on a plane ride where the two end up crashing and getting stuck in the wild.

Next in line in his television career, he appeared in Fox's Living Single (1997) episode "Three Men and a Buckeye" as Smoke Eye Howard who was the protagonist Overton's uncle, who had a son who was the Buckeyes' quarterback. After this, he played his biggest role in a television series in The Wayans Bros. (1995–1999). The series, which aired on The WB, starred Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans, who played brothers Shawn and Marlon Williams, and Witherspoon as their dad, John "Pops" Williams.

In the first season, Shawn worked as a courier driver, while Marlon worked in his father's diner. The series was somewhat re-tooled starting in the second season, where Shawn and Marlon operated a newspaper stand in the lobby of a Manhattan office building, while Pops' Diner was located in the same building, across the way. The show aired for five seasons and now can be seen as re-runs on BET and MTV2. Also during that time, Witherspoon was on the Kids' WB animation series Waynehead, which was about a young boy growing up poor in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. The show was aired on Saturday mornings and was based on creator Damon Wayans' own life.


In 2003, Witherspoon made a showing on NBC's Last Comic Standing, a reality television show that selected the comedian out of a group and gave him a contract, in the Las Vegas finals. The show still airs today. Next in 2003 he was seen in The Proud Family, an animation that aired on Disney Channel, as Oran Jones in the episode "Adventures in Bebe Sitting." Finally in 2003 he starred in the comedy show The Tracy Morgan Show as Spoon. Witherspoon appeared in all 18 episodes of the show.

In 2004, he made a guest appearance on the Disney Channel's Kim Possible, which was an animation series about a teenage girl crime fighter who not only has to worrying about worldwide challenges but also family and school issues. He was the voice of Wayne, who was Wade's uncle who was in the episode of rewriting history. Also in 2004 he was in Pryor Offenses, a television movie and played Willie the Wino.

In 2005, he was seen in the Comedy Central talk show Weekends at the D.L. where he played the character of Michael Johnson. The next year he was on another television movie called Thugaboo: A Miracle on D-Roc's Street, a story about a group of kids who find the true meaning of Christmas. In the movie he plays Real Santa, a Christmas singer on the radio.

His next appearance was on The Super Rumble Mixshow in 2008. His latest television appearance was in Aaron Mcgruder's new show, Black Jesus, portraying Lloyd, a homeless man. In 2011 he starred in a Final Destination spoof with Shane Dawson on YouTube. In May 2013 he featured on "Saturday (skit)", from rapper Logic on his latest mixtape Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever.

Music video appearances[edit]

John Witherspoon has appeared in a number of music videos in the music industry. He was in the music video for hip-hop superstar Jay-Z's 2000 single "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)". He was also in Field Mob's music video for their song "Sick of Being Lonely". Other music movies include Goodie Mob's "They Don't Dance No Mo'" and LL Cool J's "Ain't Nobody".

Comedy tour[edit]

Witherspoon went back to his comedian roots and started a comedy tour that premiered on television on March 28, 2008 on Showtime Network. On his 2009 tour, he has 19 stops across the country. In December 2011, Witherspoon performed his stand up comedy act once again on stage at the Funny Bone comedy club at Harrah's Casino in Tunica, Mississippi.



Year Film Role
1980 The Jazz Singer M.C.
1986 Ratboy Heavy
1987 Hollywood Shuffle Mr. Jones
1988 I'm Gonna Get You Sucka Reverend
1988 Bird Sid
1990 House Party Mr. Strickland
1991 Talkin Dirty After Dark Dukie
1991 The Five Heartbeats Wild Rudy
1992 Boomerang Mr. Jackson
1993 The Meteor Man Clarence James Carter III
Fatal Instinct Detective
1994 Murder Was the Case Drunk #1
1995 Friday Willie Jones
Vampire in Brooklyn Silas Green
1997 Fakin' Da Funk Bill
Sprung Detective
1998 Bulworth Reverend Morris
I Got the Hook Up Mr. Mimm
High Freakquency Wes Thomas
Ride Roscoe
2000 Next Friday Willie Jones
The Ladies Man Scrap Iron
Little Nicky Street Vendor
2001 Dr. Dolittle 2 Zoo Bear #2 (voice)
2002 Friday After Next Willie Jones
2004 Soul Plane Blind Man
2006 Little Man Pops
2007 After Sex Gene
2008 The Super Rumble Mixshow
The Hustle Mr. Wikes
2009 Hopelessly in June Mr. Myers
2011 Chick Magnet
2012 A Thousand Words Blind Old Man
TBA Last Friday Willie Jones


Further reading[edit]

  • Torianno Berry, and Venise T. Berry. Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema. Illustrated. 12. Scarecrow Press, 2007. 394. Print.

External links[edit]