John Witherspoon, a comedian and actor likely best known for his role in the movie Friday, passed away on Tuesday at his home in Sherman Oaks, California.
He was 77 years old.
The sad development was confirmed by members of Witherspoon’s family, who posted the following statement online late last night:
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.
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 huge deal to us.
And to many fans of the entertainment industry as well.
“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,” the message concluded.
Witherspoon started his stand-up comedy career in the 1970s, making friends with some of the biggest comics at the time in the process.
From there, his comedic talents opened the door to a storied big and small screen career.
His most prominent television role came when he played the father to Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans on the WB sitcom The Wayans Bros.
As mentioned above, Witherspoon also famously starred in Friday and its sequels, Next Friday and Friday After Next, which cemented his reputation as a beloved comic presence.
"I’m devastated over the passing of John Witherspoon," wrote Friday star and rapper Ice Cube on Twitter. "Life won’t be as funny without him."
Marlon Wayans also paid moving tribute to Witherspoon on Instagram.
Along with a black-and-white phot of himself, his brother and the late actor, this is what he wrote:
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.
Anyone that knows me knows how much i love pops. You have a strong wife and great kids.
What an amazing family. Your boys damn near grew up on the #WayansBros set they’ll always be like my little brothers and sons.
i will pass on all the jewels that you bestowed on to us. Thank you God for the many many many laughs that we shared on and off the set. You got “all the keys “ and i know you got one to heaven’s gate.
Anytime i want to laugh or to see you I’m gonna put on a episode of wayans bros and laugh until i cry. I miss already…. hope your dancing in heaven with ugly white shoes on.
The cause of death is unknown at this time.
"My dad, my grandpa, my comedic inspiration," actress Regina King wrote on Twitter Tuesday night, adding to the viral memorial. "I love you Spoons! Rest In Paradise, King."
The pair worked together on Friday and the animated series The Boondocks, which aired from 2005 through 2014 and offered a satirical take on African American culture and politics.
Witherspoon is survived by his wife Angela, whom he married in 1988, and his sons Alexander and John David Witherspoon.
May he rest in peace.