Photo Credit: John Witherspoon/Instagram
Actor and comedian John Witherspoon passed away this Tuesday, October 29th at his Sherman Oaks, California home, ending a career that dated back to standup in the ’60s and ’70s. Best known for his roles in Friday and The Wayans Brothers along with a host of other shows and films like Boomerang, the man known as Pops who many in the industry looked up to has shown in the immediate hours following the announcement of his passing that he’s going to be sorely missed. Ice Cube, who starred in Friday with him now 24 years ago said, “I’m devastated over the passing of John Witherspoon. Life won’t be as funny without him.” Regina King, who played Cube’s sister said, “Rest In Paradise, King. My dad, my grandpa, my comedic inspiration!” she exclaimed. “I love you Spoons!”
Witherspoon had a marriage to be envied. He was with his wife, former model and actress Angela over 30 years. You don’t hear about people being together that long these days. The two met after starring in Kidnapped together in 1987 and got married later that year. She was a comedian as well and would ask him for tips on how to deliver her material. The couple had two children, John David and Alexander Witherspoon. JD was the first to make a statement saying, “We’d roast each other like homies more than Father & Son, and I really loved that about us. In all seriousness I work as hard as I do thanks to seeing Him grind for literally 77 years of his life, and I’m damn proud to be his son.”
Marlan Wayans, who played his son on The Wayans Brothers made a heartfelt statement about how much he was a father figure to him and that things didn’t feel the same without him around. 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,” he continued. “Anyone that knows me knows how much i love pops.”
Not to be confused with one of the Founding Fathers of America with the same name (yes, there was an actual signer of the Declaration of Independence with his name), Witherspoon was the father figure many of us grew up watching on television. The irony of some of his dirty jokes juxtaposed to Bill Cosby turns out that in comparison, maybe he was the cleaner of the two because we know how Cosby’s story ended. Wendy Williams began crying talking about him today saying that no one knew of him having any health problems and how his passing caught her off guard. “I didn’t know him know him, but he’d been on my radio show,” she told the audience. “He’d been here on the TV show. We didn’t hear that he was sick. He died suddenly.”
“He was Pops!” she said. “He was in Boomerang,” she said before being passed a box of tissue as she began to cry. (“I don’t want to mess up my makeup, so I’ll stick using a [q-tip instead of a tissue”) “He was only 77 years old, and we never saw him sickly. He was with it and just…that guy. So, shout-out to his wife, to his two sons, and the rest of his family and friends. Rest in peace John Witherspoon.”
The family released a statement saying, “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. 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 a huge deal to us.” And we have to agree, John Witherspoon was a big deal to many with a legacy in Hollywood that’s sure to live on.