We’ve lost another legend.
John Witherspoon, the popular actor and comedian who singlehandedly carved out an inimitable niche for himself as the deliveryman for classic one-liners on stage, film and TV, has died. The star of the “Friday” movie franchise who played dozens of other amazing roles, died at the age of 77.
His family announced the death on Witherspoon’s verified Instagram account.
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It is with deep sadness we have to write 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. – The Witherspoon Family
“It is with deepest sorrow that we can confirm our beloved husband and father, John Witherspoon, one of the hardest working men in show business, died today at his home in Sherman Oaks at the age of 77,” Witherspoon’s family said in a statement. “He is survived by his wife Angela, and his sons JD, Alexander, and a large family. We are all in shock, please give us a minute for a moment in privacy and we will celebrate his life and his work together. John used to say ‘I’m no big deal’, but he was huge deal to us.”
There was no indication of his cause of death.
Witherspoon’s son, also a comedian, eulogized his father on Twitter early Wednesday morning.
The news of Witherspoon’s death sent an immediate ripple effect across social media that was reverberating especially among his core fans, who remembered him for any number of the roles he played that all had one thing in common: They were absolutely hilarious.
Witherspoon’s ability to create memorable lines (“Bang, bang, bang,” anyone?”) that have stood the test of time over decades is a testament to his true talent that lit up any screen or stage he performed on.
Some of his timeless roles include playing Mr. Jones in the movie “Friday,” which went on to spawn two sequels that Witherspoon also starred in. IMDB listed that Witherspoon had signed on to be in “Last Friday,” which was in its pre-production stages at the time of his death.
But Witherspoon was also remembered for playing the role of Pops in the sitcom, “The Wayans Brothers.”
Witherspoon was a frequent collaborator with the Wayans family, including Keenen Ivory Wayans, who cast Witherspoon in several of his movies, including the Blaxploitation spoof, “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” in 1988.
One of the long-standing phrases coined by (or at least popularized by) Witherspoon came during the filming of “Hollywood Shuffle,” a comedy starring Robert Townsend. Witherspoon played Townsend’s boss, the proprietor of Winky-Dinky Dog, a hot dog restaurant. He owned the scene where he introduced Winky-Dinky Dog’s latest addition to its menu: the Ho Cake. “Ho’s gotta eat too,” Mr. Jones, Witherspoon’s character, explained in the timeless moment on the big screen.
Witherspoon commanded attention anytime he was on the stage or screen, as shown in Eddie Murphy’s movie, “Boomerang,” when the phrase, “You’ve got to coordinate,” was born.
But Witherspoon was also a talented stand-up comedian who’s career got its start on the stage. His success led him to land a prominent role on “The Richard Pryor Show,” a sketch comedy show, in 1977.
That helped pave the way for an enviable career in Hollywood that spanned more than four decades, as Witherspoon was performing and working up until his death. He starred in and had guest appearances on dozens of movies and TV shows and headlined plenty of comedy shows, as well.
Witherspoon was born in Detroit on Jan. 27, 1942. He is survived by his wife of nearly 40 years, Angela Robinson Witherspoon, and their two children.
While it is indeed sad news that Witherspoon has died, luckily for his fans he left us a treasure trove of timeless material to watch at any time. Scroll down to remember some of Witherspoon’s funniest moments on stage, TV and film.
1. Black Jesus, 2014-2019
2. Little Man, 2006
3. Soul Plane, 2004
4. Friday After Next, 2002
5. Little Nicky, 2000
6. Jay-Z’s video for “I Just Wanna Love You (Give It 2 Me),” 2000
7. The Ladies Man, 2000
8. Next Friday, 2000
9. The Wayans Brothers, 1995-1999
10. Sprung, 1997
11. Vampire In Brooklyn, 1995
12. Friday, 1995
“I like pig’s feet!”
13. The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, 1994
Witherspoon played a plane pilot who just so happens to be the father of a girl Will, the show’s main character, is dating. He takes Will for a flight in order to show just how much he loves and protects his daughter. Hilarity ensues.
14. Martin, 1993
15. Boomerang, 1992
These clips from “Boomerang” need no introduction as we see Witherspoon at his comedic best and coining phrases like the infamous “Bang, bang bang!” line.