John Witherspoon, the prolific comic actor who starred in the cult Friday franchise as well as his long stint on The Wayan Bros. and The Tracy Morgan Show, has died. He was 77.
A statement from Witherspoon's family posted on his official Twitter account confirmed that the comedian had died. "It is with deep sadness we have to tweet this, but our husband & father John Witherspoon has passed away. He was a Legend in the entertainment industry, and a father figure to all who watched him over the years. We love you “POPS” always & forever."
In a long film and TV career that spanned five decades, Witherspoon also had major roles in cult animated show The Boondocks (voicing the role of Gramps) and roles in cult films such as House Party and Meteor Man as well as Hollywood movies like Vampire in Brooklyn, Bulworth and Dr. Doolittle 2.
But on the big screen, Witherspoon is most immediately associated with his hilarious role as Ice Cube's dog-catcher father in F. Gary Gray's Friday (1995) and its two sequels Next Friday (2000) and Friday After Next (2002). Witherspoon was set to reprise his role in Last Friday, but the project was in pre-production and had yet to start filming.
On TV, Witherspoon played the memorable role of John "Pops" Williams on The Wayan Bros. show that aired on The WB from 1995 to 1999.
Born in Detroit, Witherspoon first broke into stand-up comedy in the 1960s and 1970s and was a contemporary of the likes of Robin Williams and Richard Pryor. He transitioned into TV roles with parts in the The Richard Pryor Show, The Incredible Hulk and Good Times.
Witherspoon was a prolific worker and had major roles deep into his seventies. He recently starred in Adult Swim's Black Jesus, and the Obama-inspired sitcom The First Family.
He is survived by his wife Angela, and his sons JD and Alexander.
Musicians and celebrities turned to social media to pay tribute to the late actor and funnyman. "God bless John Witherspoon. The definition of an icon. Wow," tweeted Chance The Rapper. Fellow hip-hop star Ice Cube wrote, "I’m devastated over the passing of John Witherspoon. Life won’t be as funny without him."