Rest in Paradise ‘Pops’: Legendary Actor & Comedian John Witherspoon Passes at 77

Early Tuesday morning, news broke that beloved comedian and actor, John Witherspoon, had passed away in his Los Angeles residence at only 77 years of age. In a statement to Deadline, the Witherspoon family confirmed his death by expressing: “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.” They further stated that “though [Witherspoon] used to say, ‘I’m no big deal’…he was a huge deal to us,” and we all can agree that he was a tremendously ‘big deal’ to Black Hollywood. 

For decades, Witherspoon has been made a household name for the fits of laughter that he has delivered to audiences worldwide through his appearances in a countless number of film and television shows, most notably the Friday feature film franchise, and the hit American sitcom The Wayans Bros

Courtesy: The Sun 

The superstar comic was born on Jan. 27, 1942, in Detroit, Michigan. His humble beginnings in the “Motor City” led to his cultivation of both a passion for music and later movies. In the mid-1970s, Witherspoon launched his stand-up comedy career and he officially began his journey in the “show business” years later, guest-starring in various television roles. His first movie casting came with the 1980 blockbuster film, The Jazz Singer. When approached in 1990 by the director, Reginald Hudlin, to cameo opposite rap duo Kid’ n Play in the cult classic film House Party, his image as the quarrelsome yet endearing black father was solidified.  

Witherspoon’s persona was hallmarked by his unique ability to capture parental frustration while incorporating the perfect amount of hilarity and perpetuating well-needed wisdom. Through each of his many characters, Witherspoon worked to dismantle the negative stereotypes often associated with black fatherhood within our society in his depictions of well-meaning, industrious, working-class black fathers and these portrayals will without a doubt stand the test of time. His role as John ‘Pops’ Williams, father of Shawn and Marlon Williams - for which he is affectionately nicknamed - within the television show, The Wayans Bros., that aired from Jan. 1995 to May 1999, as well as his role as Mr. Willie Jones in the Friday film alongside former N.W.A. rapper, Ice Cube and comedian, Chris Tucker have brought joy to a great number of individuals and will continue to positively impact generations for years to come. 

Courtesy: Multimedios

Prior to his sudden death, Witherspoon was in the pre-production process of the fourth and final installment of the treasured Friday franchise, Last Friday and was also set to reprise his role as the voice of the grouchy “Granddad” in the upcoming reboot of the cult classic television show, The Boondocks which airs on Adult Swim. Just a day preceding his passing, Witherspoon published a video for his YouTube Series entitled Cooking for Poor People in which he often demonstrated how to prepare low-cost meals while also providing his audience with comedic commentary about current events and in his typical fashion, shaping the culture. 

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