John Witherspoon, the prolific comic actor who starred in the cult Friday franchise as well as his long stint on The Wayan Bros. and The Tracy Morgan Show, has died. He was 77.
A statement from Witherspoon’s family posted on his official Twitter account confirmed that the comedian had died. “It is with deep sadness we have to tweet this, but our husband & father John Witherspoon has passed away. He was a Legend in the entertainment industry, and a father figure to all who watched him over the years. We love you “POPS” always & forever.”
In a long film and TV career that spanned five decades, Witherspoon also had major roles in cult animated show The Boondocks (voicing the role of Gramps) and roles in cult films such as House Party and Meteor Man as well as Hollywood movies like Vampire in Brooklyn, Bulworth and Dr. Doolittle 2.
But on the big screen, Witherspoon is most immediately associated with his hilarious role as Ice Cube’s dog-catcher father in F. Gary Gray’s Friday (1995) and its two sequels Next Friday (2000) and Friday After Next (2002). Witherspoon was set to reprise his role in Last Friday, but the project was in pre-production and had yet to start filming.
On TV, Witherspoon played the memorable role of John “Pops” Williams on The Wayan Bros. show that aired on The WB from 1995 to 1999.
Born in Detroit, Witherspoon first broke into stand-up comedy in the 1960s and 1970s and was a contemporary of the likes of Robin Williams and Richard Pryor. He transitioned into TV roles with parts in the The Richard Pryor Show, The Incredible Hulk and Good Times.
Witherspoon was a prolific worker and had major roles deep into his seventies. He recently starred in Adult Swim’s Black Jesus, and the Obama-inspired sitcom The First Family.
He is survived by his wife Angela, and his sons JD and Alexander.
Musicians and celebrities turned to social media to pay tribute to the late actor and funnyman. “God bless John Witherspoon. The definition of an icon. Wow,” tweeted Chance The Rapper. Fellow hip-hop star Ice Cube wrote, “I’m devastated over the passing of John Witherspoon. Life won’t be as funny without him.”
I’m devastated over the passing of John Witherspoon. Life won’t be as funny without him. pic.twitter.com/gtmiZiEppP
— Ice Cube (@icecube) October 30, 2019
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) October 30, 2019
I’m sad. Broken. Hurt.. yet extremely grateful to God that i got to spend 5 years of my life working with one of the funniest sweetest wisest humblest loving man @johnnywitherspoon you were my tv dad and my mentor and my friend. I miss you already. Something don’t feel right. This is heavy on my heart. Anyone that knows me knows how much i love pops. You have a strong wife and great kids. What an amazing family. Your boys damn near grew up on the #WayansBros set they’ll always be like my little brothers and sons. i will pass on all the jewels that you bestowed on to us. Thank you God for the many many many laughs that we shared on and off the set. You got “all the keys — “ and i know you got one to heaven’s gate. Anytime i want to laugh or to see you I’m gonna put on a episode of wayans bros and laugh until i cry. I miss already…. hope your dancing in heaven with ugly white shoes on. “Pops pops sugar pops”. #ripjohnwitherspoon #mysecondpops
God bless John Witherspoon. The definition of an icon. Wow. pic.twitter.com/2wUBXglzSW
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) October 30, 2019
Rip John Witherspoon —-??, One of the many iconic African American actors. From the Friday movies and soul plane to the Wayne’s bro’s and many more in between.. Rip big dawg —-
— . (@JuiceWorlddd) October 30, 2019
I’m absolutely shattered at the news of my great friend John Witherspoon passing. May love surround his entire family and fan base – a comedy legend we’ll never forget. —- pic.twitter.com/PqO0nysZTj
— Jackée Harry (@JackeeHarry) October 30, 2019