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John Witherspoon

John Witherspoon

American actor
John Witherspoon
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American actor
Was Comedian Actor Voice actor Film actor Television actor Model
From United States of America
Type Fashion Film, TV, Stage & Radio Humor
Gender male
Birth 27 January 1942, Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Death 29 October 2019, Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, USA (aged 77 years)
Star sign Aquarius
Family
Siblings: William Weatherspoon
Spouse: Angela Robinson Witherspoon (27 June 1987-29 October 2019)
Stats
Height: 1.78 m
The details

Biography

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

Witherspoon is best known for his role as Willie Jones for the Friday series, he has starred in films such as Hollywood Shuffle (1987) and Boomerang (1992). 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). 

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 life

Witherspoon was born John Weatherspoon on January 27, 1942, 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. 

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.

Another sibling, Dr. Gertrude Stacks is a renowned Evangelist and the Pastor of a Pentecostal Church in Detroit, MI.

Career

Witherspoon continued his passion for music and learned how to play the trumpet and French Horn. He did occasional work 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. 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.

Witherspoon has performed in many feature films (usually comedies), including Friday (and its sequel Next Friday) as well as Hollywood Shuffle, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Bird, Vampire in Brooklyn, and The Meteor Man.

1970s

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. Penn 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.

1980s-1990s

In 1981, Witherspoon appeared in Hill Street Blues, an NBC police drama, as a businessman who tries to buy a hotdog from an undercover Detective Belker (Bruce Weitz). 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, he 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 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.

2000–later

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 worry 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

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".

In 2008, Witherspoon released a hip-hop comedy album titled "63 Cent".

Comedy tour

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

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. 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 ("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. 

Death

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.

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes 
1980 The Jazz Singer M.C. Cinderella Club  
1986 Ratboy Heavy  
1987 Hollywood Shuffle Mr. Jones  
1988 Bird Sid  
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  
1992 Boomerang Mr. Jackson  
Bébé's Kids Card Player #1 Voice 
1993 The Meteor Man Clarence James Carter III  
Fatal Instinct Arch  
1994 Murder Was the Case Drunk #1  
1995 Friday Willie Jones  
Vampire in Brooklyn Silas Green  
1997 Sprung Detective  
Fakin' da Funk Bill  
1998 Ride Roscoe  
Bulworth Reverend Morris  
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  
2006 Little Man Pops  
God's Gift Store  
2007 After Sex Gene  
2008 The Super Rumble Mixshow   
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  
2019 I Got the Hook Up 2 Mr. Mimm  
Reality Queen Joe The Plumber  
2019 Bring Me The Head of Lance Henriksen John Post production, Posthumous release 

Television

Year Title Role Notes 
1977The Richard Pryor ShowVarious2 episodes 
1978The Incredible HulkTomEpisode: "Final Round" 
What's Happening!!D.J.Episode: "Disco Dollar Disaster" 
1979Good TimesOfficer LawsonEpisode: "A Matter of Mothers" 
Barnaby JonesFrank WalesEpisode: "School of Terror" 
1982WKRP in CincinnatiDetective DaviesEpisode: "Circumstantial Evidence" 
Hill Street BluesBusinessmanEpisode: "The Young, The Beautiful and the Degraded" 
1986You Again?OsborneEpisode: "Good Neighbors" 
1987227Man #2Episode: "Low Noon" 
What's Happening Now!!AdamEpisode: "Family Life" 
Frank's PlaceRay ParrishEpisode: "Season's Greetings" 
1988AmenThe Balliff2 episodes 
1990L.A. LawMark SteadmanEpisode: "On Your Honor" 
1993Townsend TelevisionVarious10 episodes 
MartinUncle JuniorEpisode: "Thanks for Nothing" 
1994The Fresh Prince of Bel-AirAugustus AdamsEpisode: "The Harder They Fall" 
1995–1999The Wayans Bros.John "Pops" WilliamsMain cast
101 episodes 
1996–1997WayneheadDadVoice, 3 episodes 
1997Living SingleSmoke Eye HowardEpisode: "Three Men and a Buckeye" 
2000Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every ChildScofflawVoice, Episode: "The Prince and the Pauper" 
2003–2004The Proud FamilyOran JonesVoice, 3 episodes 
The Tracy Morgan ShowSpoonMain cast
18 episodes 
2004Kim PossibleWayneVoice, Episode: "Rewriting History" 
Pryor OffensesWillie The WinoTV movie 
2005Weekends at the D.L.Michael JohnsonEpisode: "1.14" 
2005–2014The BoondocksRobert "Granddad" Freeman / Blind ManVoice, Main cast
55 episodes 
2006Thugaboo: A Miracle on D-Roc's StreetReal Santa / Christmas Singer on RadioVoice, TV movie 
2008The Super Rumble Mixshow  
2011Tosh.0Fart Section Bus PassengerEpisode: "Fart Bus Kid" 
2012–2015The First FamilyGrandpa AlvinRecurring role
28 episodes 
2013–2015Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade NinjaS. Ward SmithVoice, 3 episodes 
2014Anger ManagementWillEpisode: "Charlie Tests His Power" 
2014–2019Black JesusLloyd31 episodes 
2014Black Dynamite Voice, Episode: "The Warriors Come Out or The Mean Queens of Halloween" 
2016Black-ishJames Brown2 episodes 
Animals.JimmyVoice, Episode: "Squrriels Part I" 
2017White FamousLimo DriverEpisode: "Pilot" 
2019The Jellies Voice, Episode: "Doctor Pirates!" 
2019BoJack HorsemanFranco AplentyVoice, Episode: "Surprise!” 

Albums

Comedy albums

  • 63 Cent (2008)
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 27 Oct 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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Reference sources
References
https://dam.tmz.com/document/7b/o/2019/11/12/7b6a6178906a40fc9e89fb0c16aacc6a.pdf
https://web.archive.org/web/20131128014826/https://www.nytimes.com/movies/person/77085/John-Witherspoon
https://www.nytimes.com/movies/person/77085/John-Witherspoon
https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/obituary/8541449/john-witherspoon-obit-reaction
https://books.google.com/books?id=8NJbCQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Historical+Dictionary+of+African+American+Cinema#v=onepage
https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2019/10/30/us/ap-us-obit-john-witherspoon.html
https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/actor-comic-john-witherspoon-dead-at-77-119103000736_1.html
https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/john-witherspoon-legendary-actor-comedian-20754638
https://www.freep.com/story/entertainment/television/2019/10/30/john-witherspoon-death-detroit-friday-boondocks-pops/4096877002/
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2019-10-29/friday-actor-and-comedian-john-witherspoon-dies-at-77
https://www.koamnewsnow.com/entertainment/actor-comedian-john-witherspoon-has-died-at-77/1137207024
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