Veteran actor and comedian John Witherspoon best known for his roles in Friday, The Boondocks, The Wayans Bros., Boomerang and House Party, died on Tuesday (Oct. 29), as CNN reports. Witherspoon was 77-years-old.
“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,” his family said in a statement.
“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.”
Born in Detroit in 1942, Witherspoon started his career as a stand-up comic, gracing a myriad of stages in clubs that he played throughout his life. Witherspoon got his first television role in 1977 on The Richard Pryor Show.
Witherspoon later appeared in The Incredible Hulk, Good Times, What’s Happening!!, and Barnaby Jones, where he portrayed a camp counselor for drug-addicted youth alongside a young Sean Penn.
He also appeared in shows like 227, Martin, and The Tracy Morgan Show and films such as Hollywood Shuffle, I’m Gonna Get You Sucka, The Five Heartbeats, Vampire In Brooklyn, and Little Man.
Witherspoon even appeared in a few music videos, including Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love You (Give It 2 Me).” His most beloved character is arguably Willie Jones, the over-the-top father of Craig in Ice Cube’s “Friday” franchise (Next Friday, Friday After Next).
The comedian and actor frequently collaborated with the Wayans Brothers (The Wayans Bros. and Little Man) , and in the 2000s he lent his voice as Robert “Granddad” Freeman alongside Regina King in the hit Cartoon Network show The Boondocks for more than nine seasons.
King, Cube, and various others have taken to social media to express their love for the beloved funny guy. “I’m devasted over the passing of John Witherspoon,” Ice Cube wrote on Twitter. “Life won’t be as funny without him.”
“I’m absolutely shattered at the news of my great friend John Witherspoon passing,” actress Jackee Harry said on Twitter.
“This day began with such joy. And it’s ending with this heart-wrenching news of John Witherspoon’s passing,” Arsenio Hall wrote on Twitter.
“Glad I had a chance to get to know you King. You’re truly one of the funniest most genuine people anyone could ever meet. Rest easy and God bless your transition,” rapper T.I. wrote on Instagram.
“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,” Witherspoon’s son, J.D. wrote on Twitter. “Love U Dad…I’ll miss u.”
Witherspoon is survived by his wife, two sons, and “a large family,” according to his family’s statement.