John Witherspoon (January 27, 1942 - October 29, 2019) was an American comedian and actor who has had roles in over 28 movies and 20 television shows. Mostly known for the Friday series, he has been acting for over five decades and starred in films such as Hollywood Shuffle (1987), Boomerang (1992). He has also made appearances on television shows such as The Wayans Brothers (1995–99), The Tracy Morgan Show (2003), Barnaby Jones (1973) and The Boondocks (2005). He has also taken his success in acting and continued it with screen writing a movie called From the Old School where he takes the role as an elderly working man who tries to prevent a neighborhood convenience store from being developed into a strip club. Witherspoon has just come out with The John Witherspoon Collection, which is a line of comical greeting cards known as Spoon Cards. He is the official spokesman for a Washington, D.C. used car dealership.
Witherspoon was born John Weatherspoon in Detroit, Michigan. He was born to the last name Weatherspoon but later changed it to Witherspoon. He also goes by the nicknames of Johnny Witherspoon and “mexico” John Witherspoon. John is one of 11 children. One of his older siblings, William Weatherspoon, went on to become a songwriter in Detroit for Motown. He is best known for his work "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted." Another sibling, Cato Weatherspoon, was a longtime director of the PBS-TV Network/CH56 in Detroit, Michigan that span almost four decades. John 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. John Witherspoon and his brother William grew up enjoying music. The young John continued his passion for music and learned how to play the trumpet and French Horn. Also during his childhood, Witherspoon did occasional work as a model. During the 1960s and 1970s, Witherspoon 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. David Letterman and John Witherspoon became such good friends that Witherspoon asked Letterman to be the Godfather to both his children, John David and Alexander. Letterman would accept the privilege. 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 and Alexander.
John 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, about a father and daughter that ran a private detective and investigation firm in Los Angeles (and which Randy Cunningham fans will note as providing a name to the McFreak, "Barnabutt Jones"). 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. Sean played the role of one of the kids that Witherspoon counseled in the camp.
In 1977, Witherspoon 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.
In 1981, he appeared in Hill Street Blues, an NBC police drama, as a businessman who tries to buy a hotdog from an undercover Detective Belker. 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 Witherspoon was seen on Frank's Place (1987). Also 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!! which was about a writer who ended up buying the rights to half of restaurant.
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. Other shows with this feature included The Cosby Show and 227, which Witherspoon was also in.
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 the 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 scare of Will,[clarification needed] 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, Witherspoon was 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, John Witherspoon played his biggest role in a television series in the Wayans Brothers (1995–1999). The series, which aired on the WB Network, 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 who grew up in poor in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. The show was aired on Saturday mornings and was based on creator Damon Wayans' own life.
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 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 was seen 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 worrying 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 The Boondocks, portraying Robert Freeman. In 2011 he starred in a Final Destination spoof with Shane Dawson on YouTube.
John 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'," LL Cool J’s “Ain’t Nobody” and Hitman Sammy Sam’s “Step Daddy”.
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 has 19 stops across the country. In December 2011, John Witherspoon performed his stand up comedy act once again on stage at the Funny Bone comedy club at Harrah's Casino in Tunica, MS. Nov.16 2012 Oakland Ca. John Witherspoon was one of many opening acts for what would turn out to be a major downfall of Katt Williams' stand up career. Accompanied by rappers Too Short, Richie Rich and Suge Knight.
On October 29, 2019, Witherspoon died at his Los Angeles home at the age of 77.
|1980||The Jazz Singer||M.C.|
|1987||Hollywood Shuffle||Mr. Jones|
|1988||I'm Gonna Get You Sucka||Reverend|
|1990||House Party||Mr. Strickland|
|1991||The Five Heartbeats||Wild Rudy|
|1993||The Meteor Man||Clarence James Carter III|
|1994||Murder Was the Case||Drunk #1|
|1995||Vampire in Brooklyn||Silas Green|
|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|
|2008||The Super Rumble Mixshow|
|The Hustle||Mr. Wikes|
|2009||Hopelessly in June||Mr. Myers|
|2012||A Thousand Words||Blind Old Man|
- The Richard Pryor Show (1977)
- The Incredible Hulk (1978)
- What's Happening (1978)
- Good Times (1979)
- Barnaby Jones (1979)
- WKRP in Cincinnati (1982)
- Hill Street Blues (1982)
- You Again (1986)
- 227 (1987)
- What's Happening Now (1987)
- Frank's Place (1987)
- Amen (1988)
- L.A. Law (1990)
- Townsend Television (1993)
- Martin (1993)
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1994)
- The Wayans Bros (1995–1999)
- Waynehead (1996–1997)
- Living Single (1997)
- Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (2000)
- The Proud Family (2003)
- The Tracy Morgan Show (2003–2004)
- Kim Possible (2004)
- Weekends at the DL (2005)
- The Boondocks (2005–present)
- Tosh.0 (2011)
- Bossom Friend (2011)
- Malibu Stacy (2012 - 2013 )
- The First Family (2012–present)
- Works cited
- Torianno Berry, and Venise T. Berry. Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema. Illustrated. 12. Scarecrow Press, 2007. 394. Print.