John Witherspoon (actor)
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January 27, 1942
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||October 29, 2019 (aged 77)|
Sherman Oaks, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park|
Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.
He is best remembered for his role as Willie Jones for the Friday series; Witherspoon also starred in films such as Hollywood Shuffle (1987), Boomerang (1992), The Five Heartbeats (1991), and Vampire in Brooklyn (1995). He has also made appearances on television shows such as The Fresh Prince (1994), The Wayans Bros. (1995–99), The Tracy Morgan Show (2003), Barnaby Jones (1973), The Boondocks (2005–2014), and Black Jesus (2014–2019). 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.
Witherspoon was born on January 27, 1942, in Detroit, Michigan. He later changed his last name from Weatherspoon to Witherspoon. Witherspoon was one of 11 siblings. His elder brother, William, became a songwriter for Motown, with whom he penned the lyrics of the 1966 hit single "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted". Another sibling, Cato, was a director of the PBS-TV Network/CH56 in Detroit. Their sister, Gertrude Stacks, is a pastor in Shalom Fellowship International church in Detroit.
Witherspoon worked occasionally as a model. During the 1960s and 1970s, he began to take a liking towards comedy. During that time, he began his stand-up comedy career. As a result, he had many friends in the business, including 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.
Witherspoon performed in many feature films (usually comedies), including Friday (and its sequels Next Friday and Friday After Next) as well as Hollywood Shuffle, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Bird, Vampire in Brooklyn, and The Meteor Man.
Witherspoon was also known for his over-the-top characters in films such as House Party, in which he played an irritated neighbor who is repeatedly woken up by the party, and Boomerang with Eddie Murphy, where he plays Mr. Jackson, the ill-mannered father of Murphy's best friend.
His first television appearance was on the 1970s CBS television show Barnaby Jones, playing a camp counselor for drug addicted youth. Subsequent appearances were on 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 1982 in the fourth-season episode "Circumstantial Evidence" in which Witherspoon played Detective Davies.
In 1981, he appeared in Hill Street Blues, an NBC police drama, as a man who tries to buy a hotdog from 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. He appeared in other television series including You Again? as Osborne, 227, which was an NBC comedy about women who lived in a majority black apartment complex, and 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.
He appeared in Fox's Living Single (1997) episode "Three Men and a Buckeye" as Smoke Eye Howard. His largest role in a television series was in The Wayans Bros. (1995–1999) which aired on The WB and starred Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans, who played brothers Shawn and Marlon Williams. Witherspoon played their father, John "Pops" Williams.
Witherspoon was on the Kids' WB animation series Waynehead, which was about a young boy growing up poor in the Harlem, New York City. The show was aired on Saturday mornings and was based on creator Damon Wayans' 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. Also in 2003, he performed in The Proud Family, an animated series that aired on Disney Channel, as Oran Jones in the episode "Adventures in Bebe Sitting." He also performed in an episode of another Disney Channel's animated series, Kim Possible.
In 2004, he was in Pryor Offenses, a television movie where he 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. In the same year, he began starring in Aaron McGruder's animated series The Boondocks as Robert Jebediah "Granddad" Freeman; this Cartoon Network series ran for four seasons. In 2006, he performed in a television movie, 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. He also appeared in another Aaron McGruder series, 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 2013 mixtape titled Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever.
Witherspoon 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". In 2008, Witherspoon released a hip-hop comedy album titled "63 Cent".
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 had 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.
Personal life and death
Witherspoon married Angela Robinson in 1988. They have two sons, John David ("J.D.") and Alexander. J.D. is known for making skits and gameplay videos on YouTube, and hosted the mobile game show Confetti on Facebook Watch. David Letterman was Witherspoon's best friend and is the godfather to his two sons.
Witherspoon died of a heart attack at his home in Sherman Oaks, California, on October 29, 2019. He was 77 years old. His funeral was held on November 5, 2019, and he was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, California.
|1980||The Jazz Singer||M.C. Cinderella Club|||
|1987||Hollywood Shuffle||Mr. Jones|||
|I'm Gonna Git You Sucka||Reverend|||
|1990||House Party||Mr. Strickland|||
|1991||The Five Heartbeats||Wild Rudy|||
|Talkin Dirty After Dark||Dukie|||
|Killer Tomatoes Strike Back||Evan Rood|
|Bébé's Kids||Card Player #1||Voice|
|1993||The Meteor Man||Clarence James Carter III|||
|1994||Murder Was the Case||Drunk #1|||
|Vampire in Brooklyn||Silas Green|||
|Fakin' da Funk||Bill|||
|I Got the Hook-Up||Mr. Mimm|||
|High Freakquency||Wes Thomas|||
|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|||
|2008||The Super Rumble Mixshow|||
|The Hustle||Mr. Wikes|
|You Got to Coordinate||Himself||Stand-up|
|2009||Hopelessly in June||Mr. Myers|
|2012||A Thousand Words||Blind Old Man|||
|2019||I Got the Hook Up 2||Mr. Mimm|
|2020||Reality Queen||Joe The Plumber||Posthumous release; Final film role|
|1977||The Richard Pryor Show||Various||2 episodes|
|1978||The Incredible Hulk||Tom||Episode: "Final Round"|
|What's Happening!!||D.J.||Episode: "Disco Dollar Disaster"|
|1979||Good Times||Officer Lawson||Episode: "A Matter of Mothers"|
|Barnaby Jones||Frank Wales||Episode: "School of Terror"|
|1982||WKRP in Cincinnati||Detective Davies||Episode: "Circumstantial Evidence"|
|Hill Street Blues||Businessman||Episode: "The Young, The Beautiful and the Degraded"|
|1986||You Again?||Osborne||Episode: "Good Neighbors"|
|1987||227||Man #2||Episode: "Low Noon"|
|What's Happening Now!!||Adam||Episode: "Family Life"|
|Frank's Place||Ray Parrish||Episode: "Season's Greetings"|
|1988||Amen||The Balliff||2 episodes|
|1990||L.A. Law||Mark Steadman||Episode: "On Your Honor"|
|1993||Townsend Television||Various||10 episodes|
|Martin||Uncle Junior||Episode: "Thanks for Nothing"|
|1994||The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air||Augustus Adams||Episode: "The Harder They Fall"|
|1995–1999||The Wayans Bros.||John "Pops" Williams||Main cast|
|1996–1997||Waynehead||Dad||Voice, 3 episodes|
|1997||Living Single||Smoke Eye Howard||Episode: "Three Men and a Buckeye"|
|2000||Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child||Scofflaw||Voice, Episode: "The Prince and the Pauper"|
|2003–2004||The Proud Family||Oran Jones||Voice, 3 episodes|
|The Tracy Morgan Show||Spoon||Main cast|
|2004||Kim Possible||Wayne||Voice, Episode: "Rewriting History"|
|Pryor Offenses||Willie The Wino||TV movie|
|2005||Weekends at the D.L.||Michael Johnson||Episode: "1.14"|
|2005–2014||The Boondocks||Robert "Granddad" Freeman / Blind Man||Voice, Main cast|
|2006||Thugaboo: A Miracle on D-Roc's Street||Real Santa / Christmas Singer on Radio||Voice, TV movie|
|2008||The Super Rumble Mixshow|
|2011||Tosh.0||Fart Section Bus Passenger||Episode: "Fart Bus Kid"|
|2012–2015||The First Family||Grandpa Alvin||Recurring role|
|2013||Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja||S. Ward Smith||Voice, Episode: "Sword Quest"|
|2014||Anger Management||Will||Episode: "Charlie Tests His Power"|
|2014–2019||Black Jesus||Lloyd||31 episodes|
|2014||Black Dynamite||Voice, Episode: "The Warriors Come Out or The Mean Queens of Halloween"|
|2016||Black-ish||James Brown||2 episodes|
|Animals.||Jimmy||Voice, Episode: "Squirrels Part I"|
|2017||White Famous||Limo Driver||Episode: "Pilot"|
|2019||The Jellies||Voice, Episode: "Doctor Pirates!"|
|2019||BoJack Horseman||Franco Aplenty||Voice, Episode: "Surprise!”|
- Comedy albums
- 63 Cent (2008)
- "Death Certificate" (PDF). Retrieved January 12, 2020.
- "John Witherspoon". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2015. Archived from the original on November 28, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
- "John Witherspoon Dies: Tributes Pour In for 'Friday' and 'Tracy Morgan Show' Actor". Billboard. October 30, 2019. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
- Berry, S. Torriano; Berry, Venise T. (2015). Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 480. ISBN 978-1-4422-4702-4.
- "'Friday' Actor-Comedian John Witherspoon Dies at 77". The New York Times. Associated Press. October 30, 2019. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
- India, Press Trust of (October 30, 2019). "Actor-comic John Witherspoon dead at 77". Business Standard India. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
- Twigger, Will (October 30, 2019). "John Witherspoon, legendary actor and comedian, dies aged 77". mirror. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
- Hinds, Julie. "5 essentials about the late, great John Witherspoon, comedy icon from Detroit". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
- "'Friday' actor and comedian John Witherspoon dies at 77". Los Angeles Times. October 30, 2019. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
- Maxouris, Christina; Sutton, Joe (October 30, 2019). "Actor, comedian John Witherspoon has died at 77". KOAM. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
- "Good Times: Season 6, Episode 16 A Matter of Mothers". TV Guide. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
- "The Incredible Hulk: Season 1, Episode 1 Final Round". TV Guide. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
- Kassel, Michael B.; Browne, Ray B. (1993). America's Favorite Radio Station: WKRP in Cincinnati. Popular Press. p. 192. ISBN 9780879725846.
- "Guest Appearances". www.hillstreetblues.net. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
- "63 Cent by John Witherspoon".
- "Actor and Comedian John Witherspoon Dead at 77: 'He Was a Legend in the Entertainment Industry'". PEOPLE.com. October 30, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
- "John Witherspoon on Letterman, 1987, 1988, and 1991". Retrieved January 12, 2020 – via www.youtube.com.
- Haas, Mariah (November 12, 2019). "John Witherspoon's cause of death revealed". Fox News. Retrieved November 13, 2019.
- "John Witherspoon Dies: Comedian & 'Friday' Star Was 77". October 30, 2019. Archived from the original on October 30, 2019. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
- "John Witherspoon's Celebration of Life Draws Hollywood Giants".
- CNN, Christina Maxouris and Joe Sutton. "John Witherspoon, comedian and actor who starred in 'Friday,' has died at 77". CNN. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
- "John Witherspoon's Funniest Hip-Hop Music Video Cameos". Vibe. October 30, 2019. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
- "John Witherspoon: Movies, Photos, Videos, News, Biography & Birthday | eTimes". The Times of India. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
- "John Witherspoon, 'Friday' Actor and Comedian, Dies at 77". Variety. October 30, 2019. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
- ""Boondocks" creator taking aim with Web series". Reuters. December 19, 2007. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
- Wallenstein, Andrew (December 19, 2007). "McGruder moves beyond 'Boondocks'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
- Christian, Margena A. (October 31, 2019). "How the Best Scene in 'Boomerang' Almost Didn't Happen". Ebony. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
- Berry, Torianno & Berry, Venise T. (2007). Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema. Scarecrow Press.
- Bio at bangbangbangbang.com (archived on November 26, 2011)
- John Witherspoon at IMDb
- John Witherspoon's "Cooking for Poor People" YouTube series