Wednesday, November 6, 2019

John Witherspoon Passes On

Actor and comedian John Witherspoon, who appeared in such TV shows as The Wayan Bros. and such movies as Hollywood Shuffle (1987), died on October 29 2019 at the age of 77.

John Witherspoon was born John Weatherspoon on January 27 1942 in Detroit, Michigan. His older brother, William Weatherspoon, would become a songwriter known for his work with Motown. He began his career as a stand-up comic at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles in 1974. The owner, Mitzi Shore, eventually made him a master of ceremonies. He made his television debut as a regular on The Richard Pryor Show in 1977. In the late Seventies he guest starred on the shows The Incredible Hulk, What's Happening!, Good Times, and Barnaby Jones. He made his film debut in The Jazz Singer in 1980.

In the Eighties Mr. Witherspoon guest starred on such shows as WKRP in Cincinnati, Hill Street Blues, You Again?, 227, What's Happening Now!, Frank's Place, Amen, and L.A. Law. He appeared in the movies Ratboy (1986), Hollywood Shuffle (1987), Kidnapped (1987), Bird (1988), I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988), and House Party (1990).

In the Nineties John Witherspoon was a regular on the TV shows Townsend Television and The Wayan Bros. He guest starred on the shows Martin, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Waynehead, Living Single, and Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. He appeared in the movies Friday (1995) and its sequel Next Friday (2000). He also appeared in the movies The Five Heartbeats (1991), Talkin' Dirty After Dark (1991), Killer Tomatoes Strike Back! (1991), Boomerang (1992), Bébé's Kids (1992), The Meteor Man (1993), Fatal Instinct (1993), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), Killin' Me Softly (1996), Sprung (1997), Fakin' Da Funk (1997), Ride (1998), Bulworth (1998), I Got the Hook Up (1998), High Freakquency (1998), The Ladies Man (2000), and Little Nicky (2000).

In the Naughts John Witherspoon was a regular on the TV shows The Tracy Morgan Show and The Boondocks. He guest starred on such shows as The Proud Family, Kim Possible, and Weekends at the DL. He appeared in the movies Friday After Next (2002), Soul Plane (2004), Little Man (2006), After Sex (2007), and The Hustle (2008). In the Teens he continued as a voice on The Boondocks and continued to appear on The First Family. He was a regular on Black Jesus. He guest starred on the shows Tosh.0, Anger Management, Black Dynamite, Animals, Black-ish, DashieXP, White Famous, and BoJack Horseman. He appeared in the films A Thousand Words (2012), I Got the Hook Up 2 (2019), and Reality Queen! (2019).

He continued to play comedy dates throughout his career, right up to his death.

There can be no doubt that John Witherspoon was very funny. He was certainly outrageous, and at times his comedy could be considered "bathroom humour," but he did in such a way that it was hard to be offended. He was simply that funny. Of course, as over the top and even crude as his humour could often be, John Witherspoon was capable of subtlety. He played plenty of curmudgeons, nearly all of them with soft hearts. He played characters who could be tough, but at the same time tender. Not every one of John Witherspoon's movies were classics. For every Hollywood Shuffle there were movies like Vampire in Brooklyn and Fatal Instinct. That having been said, each one of his movies was better for having him in it.

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