But a look back at the actor and comedian’s legendary life and career seems like it should have the opposite effect because Witherspoon either always had a smile on a face or was otherwise working to put one the faces of his fans.
Of all the images and videos of him that have surfaced online and on social media in the wake of his death, none have failed to make this writer chuckle, at the very least. Just the thought of him is likely to provoke a laugh, if not a knowing smile. Witherspoon’s countless quotables (“bang, bang, bang!” and “You’ve got to coordinate!” will always stand the test of time) and inimitable facial expressions will live on well after his death. And for that, fans should be thankful to have witnessed such greatness while he was alive.
Witherspoon’s family called him “one of the hardest working men in show business,” a label he wore proudly up until the day of his death. He recently explained on D.L. Hughley‘s show on TV One how he was able to enjoy such a long and fruitful career. Ironically, he also touched on the idea of heaven in an episode that aired less than a week before he died.
And whether Witherspoon was in a big-budget production or not, he excelled in the most hilarious of ways. People who were living in the D.C./Maryland/Northern Virginia area will especially remember that to be true after being reminded of the legendary used car commercial he starred in during the late 1990s.
Starring in the “Friday” movie franchise beginning in 1995 helped push Witherspoon deep into pop culture, where he remains even in death. While “Friday” was a comedy, Witherspoon was able to seamlessly toggle between the hilarious and the poignant, as shown in the below seminal scene from the franchise’s first installment.
From the cadence in which he spoke to his mannerisms to even the way he ate food on camera, Witherspoon seemed to make just about anything funny.
For the uninitiated, Witherspoon starred or appeared in too many movies and TV shows to be mentioned here. But here are just a few examples of why Witherspoon will always be remembered fondly:
The Wayan’s Bros
I Got The Hook Up / 2
The Five Heartbeats
Vampire In Brooklyn
The First Family
Scroll down to see dozens of photos from Witherspoon’s life — from the red carpet to the stage to his beloved family.
1. Memorial Weekend Comedy FestivalSource:Getty
John Witherspoon performs during the 5th Annual Memorial Weekend Comedy Festival at James L Knight Center on May 27, 2012, in Miami. (Photo by Vallery Jean/WireImage)
With Charlie Hill and Robin Williams.
3. On ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’Source:Getty
John Witherspoon and Will Smith in a episoide called “The Harder They Fall.” (Photo by Joseph Del Valle/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)
5. ‘The Boondocks’ Launch PartySource:Getty
John Witherspoon with his family, from left: Alexander Witherspoon, Angela Witherspoon and John David Witherspoon. Nov. 1, 2005. (Photo by Amy Tierney/WireImage)
7. Memorial Weekend Comedy FestivalSource:Getty
John Witherspoon and Lil Duval backstage at the 9th Annual Memorial Weekend Comedy Festival at James L Knight Center on May 29, 2016, in Miami. (Photo by Johnny Louis/FilmMagic)
9. Playboy Jazz FestivalSource:Getty
Jamie Foxx and John Witherspoon attend the 31st annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl on June 14, 2009, in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
11. ‘The Tracy Morgan Show’Source:Getty
From left: Dwight ‘Heavy D’ Meyers as Bernard, Bobb’e J. Thompson as Jimmy Mitchell, Tracy Morgan as Tracy Mitchell, Tamala Jones as Alicia Mitchell, Marc John Jefferies as Derrick Mitchell, John Witherspoon as Spoon. Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
12. Memorial Weekend Comedy FestivalSource:Getty
John Witherspoon and Leslie Jones backstage during the 5th Annual Memorial Weekend Comedy Festival at James L Knight Center on May 27, 2012, in Miami. (Photo by Vallery Jean/WireImage)
13. ‘Late Show with David Letterman’Source:Getty
Actor John Witherspoon and son visit “Late Show with David Letterman” at the Ed Sullivan Theater on March 25, 2008, in New York City. (Photo by Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic)
14. Hill Harper and John WitherspoonSource:Getty
Hill Harper and John Witherspoon, March 29, 2007. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
John Witherspoon, Nia Long, Bernie Casey and Marla Gibbs, March 29, 2007. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
16. Mercedes-Benz Spring 2007 L.A. Fashion Week at Smashbox StudiosSource:Getty
Sinbad and John Witherspoon at L.A. Fashion Week in Culver City, California, Oct. 19, 2006. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage)
17. ‘The Boondocks’Source:Getty
Aaron McGruder, creator and executive producer of “The Boondocks,”, John Witherspoon, Regina King and Gabby Soleil, July 17, 2005. (Photo by L. Cohen/WireImage for Temp Account)
18. The Magic Trade ShowSource:Getty
John Witherspoon and Damon Dash at the Rocawear booth at the Magic Trade Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Feb. 15, 2005. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
19. An Artful Evening At The California African American MuseumSource:Getty
Charmain Jefferson (Director for The California African American Museum), Betye Saar (Artist) and John Witherspoon at ‘An Artful Evening At CAAM’ Gala on Oct. 15, 2011, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)
John Witherspoon dances during Wyclef Jean’s performance Feb. 2, 2005, in New York City. (Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/FilmMagic)
World Premiere Of “The Battle Of Shaker Heights” After Party, Aug. 11, 2003. From right: Reggie Miller, John Witherspoon and Don Cheadle. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
22. ‘Friday After Next’ PremiereSource:Getty
From left: Ice Cube, Mike Epps, Don “D.C.” Curry, John Witherspoon, K.D. Aubert, director Marcus Raboy, Anna Maria Horsford and Clifton Powell; Front row: Katt Williams. Nov. 23, 2002. (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)
Performance at The Improv in West Hollywood, California, Aug. 23, 2002. (Photo by Chris Weeks/WireImage)
At The Improv in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chris Weeks/WireImage)
25. 2004 AND1 Mix Tape TourSource:Getty
At The Great Western Fourm in Inglewood, California, June 9, 2004. (Photo by Steve Grayson/WireImage)