John Witherspoon (actor)

John Weatherspoon[1] (January 27, 1942 – October 29, 2019), better known as John Witherspoon, was an American actor and comedian who performed in various television shows and films.[2]

John Witherspoon
JohnWithersppon2019 (Cropped).png
Witherspoon in 2019
John Weatherspoon

(1942-01-27)January 27, 1942
DiedOctober 29, 2019(2019-10-29) (aged 77)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park
Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.
Other namesPops
  • Actor
  • comedian
Years active1977–2019
Angela Robinson
(m. 1988)

Witherspoon is best remembered for his role as Willie Jones in the Friday series;[2] he also starred in films such as Hollywood Shuffle (1987), Boomerang (1992), The Five Heartbeats (1991), and Vampire in Brooklyn (1995).[2] In addition, he made appearances on television shows such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1994), The Wayans Bros. (1995–99), The Tracy Morgan Show (2003), Barnaby Jones (1973), The Boondocks (2005–2014), and Black Jesus (2014–2019).[2][3] 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.

Early lifeEdit

Witherspoon was born on January 27, 1942, in Detroit, Michigan.[4][5] He later changed his last name from Weatherspoon to Witherspoon.[6] Witherspoon was one of 11 siblings.[7] His older brother, William, became a songwriter for Motown, with whom he penned the lyrics of the 1966 hit single "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted".[7] Another sibling, Cato, was a director of the PBS-TV Network/CH56 in Detroit.[8] His sister, the late Dr. Gertrude Stacks, was a pastor at Shalom Fellowship International, a church in Detroit.[8]

Witherspoon had a passion for music and learned to play the trumpet and French horn.[9]


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.[3]

Witherspoon performed in many feature films (usually comedies), including Friday (and its sequels Next Friday and Friday After Next), Hollywood Shuffle, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Bird, Vampire in Brooklyn, and The Meteor Man.[4][10][3]

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,[3] and Boomerang with Eddie Murphy, where he plays Mr. Jackson, the ill-mannered father of Murphy's best friend.[10]


His first television appearance was on the 1970s CBS television show Barnaby Jones,[11] playing a camp counselor for drug addicted youth.[12] Subsequent appearances were on Good Times,[13] What's Happening!!,[14] and The Incredible Hulk.[15] In 1977, he became a regular on the series The Richard Pryor Show, an NBC American comedy series.[3] This then led to his 1982 appearance in WKRP In Cincinnati, in which Witherspoon played Detective Davies, on the fourth-season episode "Circumstantial Evidence".[16]

In 1981, he appeared in the NBC police drama Hill Street Blues, as a man who tries to buy a hotdog from undercover Detective Belker.[17] Also in 1981, he had an appearance on NBC's legal drama L.A. Law, in the episode "On Your Honor" as Mark Steadman. He appeared in You Again? as Osborne. Other television show appearances include 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!!.

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

Next came spots on Townsend Television (1993), Cosmic Slop (1994), and Murder Was The Case (1994) as a drunk.

He later appeared in the 1997 Living Single episode "Three Men and a Buckeye" as Smoke Eye Howard. His largest role in a television series was on The Wayans Bros. (1995–1999) which aired on The WB and starred Shawn and Marlon Wayans, who played brothers Shawn and Marlon Williams.[10] Witherspoon played their father, John "Pops" Williams.

He was also on the Kids' WB animation series Waynehead, which was about a young boy growing up poor in Harlem, New York City. The show, which aired on Saturday mornings, 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 top comedian out of a group and gave him a contract, in the Las Vegas finals. That same year, he performed as Oran Jones in The Proud Family episode "Adventures in Bebe Sitting". He later guest-starred in an episode of Kim Possible. During this time, Witherspoon was also featured as Spoon in all 18 episodes of the comedy series The Tracy Morgan Show.[3]

In 2004, he appeared 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 portrayed the character of Michael Johnson. That same year, he began starring in Aaron McGruder's animated series The Boondocks as Robert Jebediah "Granddad" Freeman; this Cartoon Network/Adult Swim series ran for four seasons.[10][3] In 2006, he performed as Real Santa, a Christmas singer on the radio, in the television movie, Thugaboo: A Miracle on D-Roc's Street, a story of a group of kids who find the true meaning of Christmas. His next appearance was on The Super Rumble Mixshow in 2008. In 2011, he starred in a Final Destination spoof with Shane Dawson on YouTube. In May 2013, he was featured on "Saturday (skit)", from rapper Logic's 2013 mixtape titled Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever. He later performed in another Aaron McGruder series, Black Jesus, portraying Lloyd, a homeless man.[3]

Music videosEdit

Witherspoon appeared in a number of music videos by artists in the music industry. In 2000, he was in the music video for hip-hop superstar Jay-Z's hit single "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)". He was also in the music video for Field Mob's song "Sick of Being Lonely". Other music video credits 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".[18]

Comedy tourEdit

Witherspoon went back to his comedian roots and started a comedy tour that premiered on television on March 28, 2008, on Showtime. 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 deathEdit

Witherspoon married Angela Robinson in 1988.[19] They raised sons, John David ("J.D.") and Alexander.[6] David Letterman was Witherspoon's best friend and is the godfather of his two sons.[20]

On October 29, 2019, Witherspoon died of a heart attack at his home in Sherman Oaks, California.[21] He was 77 years old.[22] His funeral was held on November 5, 2019, and he was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, California.[23]



Year Title Role Notes
1980 The Jazz Singer M.C. Cinderella Club [4]
1986 Ratboy Heavy [4]
1987 Hollywood Shuffle Mr. Jones [4]
1988 Bird Sid [4]
I'm Gonna Git You Sucka Reverend [4]
1990 House Party Mr. Strickland [3][4]
1991 The Five Heartbeats Wild Rudy [4]
Talkin Dirty After Dark Dukie [4]
Killer Tomatoes Strike Back Evan Rood
1992 Boomerang Mr. Jackson [24]
Bébé's Kids Card Player #1 Voice
1993 The Meteor Man Clarence James Carter III [3][4]
Fatal Instinct Arch [4]
1994 Murder Was the Case Drunk #1 [25]
1995 Friday Willie Jones [24]
Vampire in Brooklyn Silas Green [24]
1997 Sprung Detective [4]
Fakin' da Funk Bill [4]
1998 Ride Roscoe [4]
Bulworth Reverend Morris [3]
I Got the Hook-Up Mr. Mimm [4]
High Freakquency Wes Thomas [26]
2000 Next Friday Willie Jones [24]
The Ladies Man Scrap Iron [4]
Little Nicky Street Vendor [4]
2001 Dr. Dolittle 2 Zoo Bear #2 Voice[3]
2002 Friday After Next Willie Jones [24]
2004 Soul Plane Blind Man [4]
2006 Little Man Pops [27]
God's Gift Store
2007 After Sex Gene
2008 The Super Rumble Mixshow [28][29]
The Hustle Mr. Wikes
You Got to Coordinate Himself Stand-up
2009 Hopelessly in June Mr. Myers
2011 Chick Magnet John
2012 A Thousand Words Blind Old Man [30]
2019 I Got the Hook-Up 2 Mr. Mimm
2020 Reality Queen Joe The Plumber Posthumous release; Final film role


Year Title Role Notes
1977 The Richard Pryor Show Various 2 episodes[3]
1978 The Incredible Hulk Tom Episode: "Final Round"[15][3]
What's Happening!! D.J. Episode: "Disco Dollar Disaster"
1979 Good Times Officer Lawson Episode: "A Matter of Mothers"[13][3]
Barnaby Jones Frank Wales Episode: "School of Terror"[24]
1982 WKRP in Cincinnati Detective Davies Episode: "Circumstantial Evidence"[16]
Hill Street Blues Businessman Episode: "The Young, The Beautiful and the Degraded"[4]
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[4]
1990 L.A. Law Mark Steadman Episode: "On Your Honor"[4]
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"[4]
1995–1999 The Wayans Bros. John "Pops" Williams Main cast
101 episodes[24][10]
1996–1997 Waynehead Dad Voice, 3 episodes
1997 Living Single Smoke Eye Howard
2000 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Scofflaw
2003–2004 The Proud Family Oran Jones Voice, 3 episodes
The Tracy Morgan Show Spoon
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
55 episodes[10]
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
28 episodes[3]
2013 Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja S. Ward Smith Voice, 3 episodes
2014 Anger Management Will Episode: "Charlie Tests His Power"
2014–2019 Black Jesus Lloyd 31 episodes[3]
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 BoJack Horseman Franco Aplenty Voice, Episode: "Surprise!”


Comedy albums



  1. ^ "Death Certificate" (PDF). Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d "John Witherspoon". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2015. Archived from the original on July 1, 2015. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "John Witherspoon Dies: Tributes Pour In for 'Friday' and 'Tracy Morgan Show' Actor". Billboard. October 30, 2019. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Berry, S. Torriano; Berry, Venise T. (2015). Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 480. ISBN 978-1-4422-4702-4.
  5. ^ "'Friday' Actor-Comedian John Witherspoon Dies at 77". The New York Times. Associated Press. October 30, 2019. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Actor-comic John Witherspoon dead at 77". Business Standard India. Press Trust of India. October 30, 2019. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Twigger, Will (October 30, 2019). "John Witherspoon, legendary actor and comedian, dies aged 77". mirror. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Hinds, Julie. "5 essentials about the late, great John Witherspoon, comedy icon from Detroit". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
  9. ^ "R.I.P. legendary actor-comedian John Witherspoon". AV Club.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "'Friday' actor and comedian John Witherspoon dies at 77". Los Angeles Times. October 30, 2019. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  11. ^ Maxouris, Christina; Sutton, Joe (October 30, 2019). "Actor, comedian John Witherspoon has died at 77". KOAM. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  12. ^ Neuman, Scott (October 30, 2019). "Film And Television Comic John Witherspoon Dies At 77". NPR.
  13. ^ a b "Good Times: Season 6, Episode 16 A Matter of Mothers". TV Guide. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  14. ^ "John Witherspoon, 'Friday,' 'Wayans Bros.' Star, Dead at 77". Rolling Stone. October 30, 2019.
  15. ^ a b "The Incredible Hulk: Season 1, Episode 1 Final Round". TV Guide. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  16. ^ a b Kassel, Michael B.; Browne, Ray B. (1993). America's Favorite Radio Station: WKRP in Cincinnati. Popular Press. p. 192. ISBN 9780879725846.
  17. ^ "Guest Appearances". Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  18. ^ a b
  19. ^ "Actor and Comedian John Witherspoon Dead at 77: 'He Was a Legend in the Entertainment Industry'". October 30, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  20. ^ "John Witherspoon on Letterman, 1987, 1988, and 1991". Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved January 12, 2020 – via
  21. ^ Haas, Mariah (November 12, 2019). "John Witherspoon's cause of death revealed". Fox News. Retrieved November 13, 2019.
  22. ^ "John Witherspoon Dies: Comedian & 'Friday' Star Was 77". October 30, 2019. Archived from the original on October 30, 2019. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  23. ^ "John Witherspoon's Celebration of Life Draws Hollywood Giants".
  24. ^ a b c d e f g Christina Maxouris and Joe Sutton. "John Witherspoon, comedian and actor who starred in 'Friday,' has died at 77". CNN. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  25. ^ "John Witherspoon's Funniestpoop Hip-Hop Music Video Cameos". Vibe. October 30, 2019. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
  26. ^ "John Witherspoon: Movies, Photos, Videos, News, Biography & Birthday | eTimes". The Times of India. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
  27. ^ "John Witherspoon, 'Friday' Actor and Comedian, Dies at 77". Variety. October 30, 2019. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
  28. ^ ""Boondocks" creator taking aim with Web series". Reuters. December 19, 2007. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
  29. ^ Wallenstein, Andrew (December 19, 2007). "McGruder moves beyond 'Boondocks'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
  30. ^ Christian, Margena A. (October 31, 2019). "How the Best Scene in 'Boomerang' Almost Didn't Happen". Ebony. Retrieved November 2, 2019.

Further reading

External linksEdit