Comedy just lost another stalwart. John Witherspoon, the comedian and actor known for starring in the Friday film series, has died at age 77.
His family confirmed the news Tuesday night on Twitter, releasing a statement that said, “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.”
His son, J.D. Witherspoon, also shared a tribute to his late dad on Twitter, posting a series of photos of himself with the actor with the caption, “So…my Dad died today & honestly I’m not sure how to feel. I’m sad, but I’m also happy 4 all the great times we had together. We’d roast each other like homies more than Father & Son, and I really liked that. He was my best friend & my idol. Love U Dad…I’ll miss u.”
Witherspoon died Tuesday at his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif., his family told Deadline.
Witherspoon appeared as Willie Jones, the hilariously crotchety father of Ice Cube’s character in the 1995 classic comedy Friday. He reprised his role in the next two films in the series, 2000’s Next Friday and 2002’s Friday After Next. There’s been talk of a fourth film, which has yet to materialize.
Born in Detroit in 1942, Witherspoon made his film debut in 1980’s The Jazz Singer. He was a prolific actor and collaborated with a slew of talented costars, including Eddie Murphy in four films, such as Vampire in Brooklyn and Dr. Dolittle 2, as well as Tracy Morgan on The Tracy Morgan Show and 2006’s Little Man. Witherspoon also appeared on series including The Wayans Bros., The First Family, and the beloved animated show The Boondocks, in which he reunited with his Friday costar Regina King.
Witherspoon remained active in recent years, with roles in numerous projects in 2019, including as Lloyd on the show Black Jesus. He also performed comedy regularly and had upcoming tour dates planned.
Celebrities and fans have already begun honoring Witherspoon’s work on social media, including King, who tweeted, “My dad, my grandpa, my comedic inspiration! I love you Spoons! Rest In Paradise, King.”
Marsha Warfield, who appeared with Witherspoon on The Richard Pryor Show, wrote, “I’m so sorry to hear this. To me, Spoon was a friend, a brother, a funny, talented comedian and a good man. He was the first comedian I met when I got to Los Angeles, and he never…”
Judd Apatow wrote, “Pure funny. Hilarious and always kind. John Witherspoon will be missed.”
Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin wrote, “Off he goes to that great Winky Dinky Dog in the sky. John Witherspoon’s characters taught me how honestly funny– and smart– broad comedy could be.”
Witherspoon is survived by his wife, Angela, and sons J.D. and Alexander.