John Witherspoon: 1942 – 2019

*Sigh*  We lost another legend.

When I was a little girl, House Party was one of my favorite movies; it still is, to be honest.  One of the funniest scenes in the film was the one where Play’s neighbor, Mr. Strickland, is yelling at the kids next door about all the noise they’re making…when he’s the one making the most noise.  That was my introduction to John Witherspoon.

John was a part of the industry for ages.  He did stand up comedy in the ’60s and ’70s, and continued to do stand up shows until his death.  John also worked with Richard Pryor back in the day, and was in attendance at his now legendary roast in 1977.  In the ’80s, he starred in two of my other favorite childhood films, Hollywood Shuffle and I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.  He continued to make us laugh on The Wayans Bros., where he played Shawn and Marlon’s father, earning him the nickname, “Pops.”  John also did bit roles in other sitcoms, movies and even music videos, stealing the show every time.

One of my favorite John Witherspoon roles was that of David Alan Grier’s father in Boomerang.  I still quote “You got to cooooordinate!” to this very day, and his “Bang, bang, bang!” line became his signature catchphrase.

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When my sister introduced me to the classic film Friday when I was 14, there was John Witherspoon again, this time as Craig’s (Ice Cube) dad.  His role as a dog catcher that loves relieving his bowels and monitoring his son’s activity in the kitchen almost as much as his actual job made him a household name.  Once again, this movie gave me a lot more quotable material.  As great as Ice Cube and Chris Tucker were in Friday, John Witherspoon definitely helped make it the tour de force it is today.

Ten years after Friday was released, John starred in another groundbreaking role:  Jebidiah “Granddad” Freeman in The Boondocks.  In the original comic strip, the storylines centered around Huey and Riley, but thanks to John Witherspoon, Granddad was the breakout star on the TV series.  He never failed to crack me up during an episode.

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Just a few weeks ago, my homegirl was quoting John Witherspoon’s “bathroom scene” from Next Friday.  I never thought Next Friday was as good as the first one, so I only watched it once (when it was first released in 2000) and I forgot most of the film, so I didn’t catch the quote.  My homegirl told me to check it out, promising that I would be dying after watching it.  Even though I never cared too much for the sequel as a whole, I loved John, and I knew the scene would be as funny as my buddy said it was.  Sure enough, I watched it, and Mr. Witherspoon didn’t disappoint.  Little did I know he’d be gone a short time after.

When I heard that John died, my heart broke.  Even though he was always part of the supporting cast—namely playing the role of the goofball, blue collar father—he always made sure he stood out and that everything he did was memorable.  The laughter and memories he provided me with over the years will stay with me for always.

He will be missed.

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John “Pops” Weatherspoon aka John Witherspoon:  January 27, 1942 – October 29, 2019

—Written by Nadiya

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