PROFILE
Name:
John Witherspoon
Birth Date:
January 27, 1942
Birth Place:
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Height:
5' 10" (1.78 m)
Nationality:
American
BIOGRAPHY
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Friday's Dad

Background:

John Witherspoon, also known as Johnny Witherspoon and Detroit John, established a successful career as a stand-up comic and has been seen in a string of unforgettable film performances. The Orange County Register describes him as being in a class of his own. “Witherspoon is one of those performers who doesn't need a funny line to be funny. Just standing there in a truculent posture with a suspicious look, he is funny and enlivens every scene he's in.”

First gaining notice in Robert Townsend's comedy “Hollywood Shuffle” (1987), the funnyman experienced his breakthrough role as Mr. Strickland in the box office hit “House Party” (1990) and has continued to build a reputation as one of the most memorable funny men in America with scene stealing roles in such films as “Boomerang” (1992), “Vampire in Brooklyn” (1995), “The Ladies Man” (2000), “Little Nicky” (2000), “Soul Plane” (2004) and “Little Man” (2006). However, Witherspoon is probably best recalled as the ill-tempered father of Ice Cube in the highly successful urban comedy “Friday” (1995) and its sequels “Next Friday” (2000) and “Friday After Next” (2002). Recently appearing in “After Sex” (2007), Witherspoon, who received $10,000 for “Friday,” $400,000 for “Next Friday” and $1,000,000 for “Friday After Next,” is set to play a role in director Deon Taylor's upcoming comedy film, “The Hustle” (2008).

On the small screen, 5-foot-10-inch Witherspoon was popular as Pops on The WB's “The Wayans Brothers,” which ran from 1995 to 1999, and for playing Spoon on NBC’s “The Tracy Morgan Show” (2003-2004), which won him a BET Comedy nomination. Witherspoon's fans can hear his voice in the animated series “The Boondocks” (2005-present), as Robert 'Granddad' Freeman. The noted comedian also has appeared as a guest star in numerous TV shows, as well as has acted in many music videos and commercials.

As for his personal life, Witherspoon has been married to his wife Angela Robinson since 1988. One of their two children, son David, is David Letterman's godchild.


Letterman's Close Friend

Childhood and Family:

John Witherspoon was born on January 27, 1942, in Detroit, Michigan. At age 46, in 1988, he married Angela Robinson. They have two children together. His brother, William Weatherspoon, is a songwriter and producer for Motown Records and is known for writing the hit “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.” John is the cousin of Lamont Dozier, a popular singer and songwriter of the 1960s. John is a very close friend with renowned talk show host David Letterman, who is the godfather of his son, David.


House Party

Career:

John Witherspoon entered the entertainment industry in the early 1970s as a fashion model, during which time he appeared in many catalogs, before making a name for himself as a stand-up comedian. His first break arrived in 1977 when he was recruited as a regular performer on the short-term variety series “The Richard Pryor Show.” Afterwards, he made guest appearances in a series of shows such as “What's Happening” (1978), “Good Times” (1979), “WKRP in Cincinnati” and “Hill Street Blues” (both 1982). He also began appearing in feature film, playing the small role of a nightclub MC in a 1980 remake of “The Jazz Singer,” starring Neil Diamond.

However, it took six years for Witherspoon to land another small role on the big screen film. “Kidnapped” (1986), a thriller written and directed by Howard Avadis. Later that same year, he played Heavy on the mystery film “Ratboy,” directed by and starring Sondra Locke. Witherspoon's screen breakthrough arrived the following year in the Robert Townsend comedy vehicle “Hollywood Shuffle,” in which he was cast as the manager of the Winky Dinky Dog hotdog stand.

After returning to TV, he appeared in episodes of “227,” “What's Happening Now,” “Frank's Place” and “Amen.” Witherspoon then portrayed Sid in a film about the life and times of the jazz player Charlie Bird called “Bird” (1988), with Forest Whitaker starring in the title role. Clint Eastwood directed the drama film. He closed out the decade with a funny role in Keenen Ivory Wayans' “I'm Gonna Git You Sucka” (1988).

Witherspoon had his breakout role in the successful comedy “House Party” (1990) in which he portrayed Mr. Strickland, opposite Christopher Reid, Martin Lawrence and Christopher Martin. That same year, he played a supporting role in the action/comedy “Killer Tomatoes Strike Back.” More gigs followed, such as playing Wild Rudy in the musical drama “The Five Heartbeats” (1991), Mr. Jackson, the father of David Alan Grier's character, in “Boomerang” (1992) and Clarence James Carter III in the comedy superhero spoof “Meteor Man” (1993), again directed by Robert Townsend. In 1993, he had a recurring role in the short-lived TV series “Townsend Television,” as himself.

In the mid 1990s, the busy actor confirmed his increasingly popular status by delivering an amusing turn as Ice Cube's atrociously funny, dog-catching father in the summer blockbuster hit “Friday” (1995). Witherspoon later reprised his role of Mr. Jones in its two sequels “Next Friday” and “Friday After Next” in 2000 and 2002, respectively. Still in 1995, he furthered his success on the small screen when he landed the regular role of John 'Pops' Williams on the long-running syndicated sitcom “The Wayans Brothers,” which ran until 1999. Here, he shared the screen with Marlon and Shawn Wayans. He maintained his big screen presence by taking on roles in films like Wes Craven's “Vampire In Brooklyn” (1995, with Eddie Murphy), “Sprung” (1997, starred Wes Hubbard and Tisha Campbell), “Ride” (1998, costarred as Roscoe) and Warren Beatty's “Bulworth” (1998).

Entering the new millennium, in addition to returning to the “Friday” series, Witherspoon also starred as Scrap Iron in the comedy “The Ladies Man” (2000), appeared as a street vendor in Adam Sandler's “Little Nicky” (2000) and supplied the voice of the zoo bear on Murphy's “Dr. Dolittle 2” (2001). He continued to play Spoon on the NBC sitcom “The Tracy Morgan Show” (2003-2004), from which he was nominated for a BET comedy award in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, Willie the Wino on the made-for-TV film “Pryor Offenses” (2004), which starred Eddie Griffin, and guest starred in “Kim Possible” in 2004 and “Weekends at the DL” in 2005. On the movie front, he supported Tom Arnold for “Soul Plane,” a 2004 comedy, and reunited with Shawn and Marlon Wayans for the comedy “Little Man” (2006), directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans.

More recently, in 2007, Witherspoon had a small role in the comedy “After Sex,” alongside Mila Kunis and Jane Seymour. He is now voicing Robert 'Granddad' Freeman in the animated TV adaptation of the controversial comic strip “The Boondocks,” a job he has held since 2005. The 65-year-old performer will play Mr. Wilkes in the upcoming comedy film “The Hustle” (2008), for director Deon Taylor.

Aside from acting on TV and in film, Witherspoon also appeared on several music videos and commercials. He acted in the music video for Goodie Mob's “They Don't Dance No Mo” and Jay-Z's “I Just Wanna Love You.” He also can be seen in REM's video “Imitation of Life” and Hitman Sammy Sam's “Step Daddy,” in which he appeared as Stepdaddy #1. In 2003, he starred in a TV commercial for Tide.

In between his hectic schedule, Witherspoon has toured around the country with his wild stand-up comedy show. He has recently launched “The John Witherspoon Collection,” a complete line of humorous greeting cards called “Spoon Cards.”


Awards:
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© Retna
© New Line Cinema
© Retna
© New Line Cinema
© New Line Cinema
© Paramount Pictures
© Paramount Pictures

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