John Witherspoon, an actor and comedian best known for the hit Friday feature film franchise, died suddenly at his home on Tuesday, his family said. He was 77. No cause of death was released.
"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 at the age of 77," Witherspoon’s family said in a statement to Deadline. "He is survived by his wife Angela, and his sons JD, Alexander, and a large family. 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."
The family also made an official statement via the actor's Twitter account, calling him a "Legend in the entertainment industry."
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.
- The Witherspoon Family pic.twitter.com/ov9P34kaMn— John Witherspoon (@John_POPS_Spoon) October 30, 2019
Born John Weatherspoon in Detroit in 1942, the comedy great launched a stand-up comedy career and began acting in the late 1970s with several guest-starring TV roles and made his feature film debut in 1980's The Jazz Singer. Witherspoon appeared in numerous films, like Hollywood Shuffle, Boomerang, Vampire in Brooklyn, The Ladies Man and Fakin' Da Funk.
But he is perhaps best known for playing Ice Cube's grumpy dad in the 1995 hit Friday, also appearing in the sequels Next Friday and Friday After Next. He was expected to reprise his role in the final installment of the franchise titled Last Friday.
He is also well known for voicing Gramps on the cult animated series The Boondocks, and likely would have returned for the series' upcoming revival on HBO Max. He also did stints on comedy series like The Wayans Bros., The Tracy Morgan Show, The First Family and Black Jesus. He frequently graced the couch on Late Show with David Letterman.
At the time of his death at age 77, Witherspoon remained dedicated to his standup comedy career and continued to perform regularly; Deadline reports that he had several dates coming up, although at press time none were listed on his website.
I’m devastated over the passing of John Witherspoon. Life won’t be as funny without him. pic.twitter.com/gtmiZiEppP— Ice Cube (@icecube) October 30, 2019
Ice Cube mourned Witherspoon's death on Twitter, writing that he was "devoted" by his passing. "Life won't be as funny without him," he wrote alongside a photo of the two of them.
Regina King, who appeared as Witherspoon's daughter in Friday and also voiced both of his grandsons in The Boondocks, called him her "comedic inspiration."
My dad, my grandpa, my comedic inspiration! I love you Spoons! Rest In Paradise, King pic.twitter.com/U6GsNrrKXF— Regina King (@ReginaKing) October 30, 2019