Celebrities React To The Death Of John Witherspoon

Beloved actor and comedian John Witherspoon, who kept audiences laughing for decades in such classics like Friday, The Boondocks, and The Five Heartbeats, passed away unexpectedly on Oct. 29, 2019, at the age of 77, the Associated Press reports. At the time of this writing, no official cause of death has been made public. 

"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 released 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 news of Witherspoon's passing spread quickly over social media, and many who knew him best rushed to remember and pay tribute to a genuine comedy icon. Here are a few of the celebrity reactions to the death of John Witherspoon.

Ice Cube

Legendary rapper, actor, and screenwriter Ice Cube worked alongside John Witherspoon in 1995's Friday, in which Witherspoon played his father, Willie Jones. Almost immediately after the news of Witherspoon's death broke, he took to Twitter with, "I'm devastated over the passing of John Witherspoon." Accompanied by a photo of himself and Witherspoon, Ice Cube added, "Life won't be as funny without him."

Jay Pharoah

Saturday Night Live alum Jay Pharoah also paid tribute to fellow comedian John Witherspoon. "My heart hurts so much right now, RIP to John Witherspoon," Pharoah tweeted, captioning a snapshot of the two together. "I appreciate our conversations and the wisdom you gave me as a young comic, we lost a real one today and It'd be remiss to not say he was and is irreplaceable and a invaluable icon in the comedic community." Pharoah added, "Sleep easy man."

Jackée Harry

Sister, Sister star Jackée Harry, who worked with John Witherspoon on 227 in the late 80s, as well as on The First Family in the 2010s, shared a funny clip of the late actor on Twitter. "I'm absolutely shattered at the news of my great friend John Witherspoon passing," she wrote alongside the video. "May love surround his entire family and fan base — a comedy legend we'll never forget."

Regina King

Regina King, who portrayed John Witherspoon's daughter in Friday, as well as voiced his grandchildren on the animated series The Boondocks, took to Twitter with this heartfelt message: "My dad, my grandpa, my comedic inspiration! I love you Spoons! Rest In Paradise, King."

Martin Lawrence

Bad Boys star Martin Lawrence starred alongside John Witherspoon in the 1991 comedy flick, Talkin' Dirty After Dark. Witherspoon would later play his uncle on the sitcom Martin. On Twitter, Lawrence reflected on the role Witherspoon played in the careers of his generation of comedians: "The world has lost a true comedy legend and all around genuine soul, who paved the way for so many of us to be able to do what we love." He added, "My deepest condolences to John's family. I know he's already up there makin everyone laugh."

Marlon Wayans

Marlon Wayans took to Instagram to offer a touching tribute to his The Wayans Bros. sitcom dad. "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," he captioned a photo of himself, brother Shawn, and Witherspoon. "@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 d**n near grew up on the #WayansBros set they'll always be like my little brothers and sons."

Wayans' heartfelt words continued with, "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. 'Pops pops sugar pops.'"

Kevin Smith

Clerks director Kevin Smith took a moment to emphasize John Witherspoon's impact on his own career in showbiz. "'It sends chills down my spine every time I say it! Winky. Dinky. Dawwwwg!'" Smith tweeted, quoting Witherspoon's character in 1987's cult classic Hollywood Shuffle. Noting that this movie and Witherspoon are "in [his] creative DNA," Smith added, "Whether he was 'coordinating' or calling cops on the House Party, he stole the scene in every movie/sitcom he was ever in. #RIPSpoon."

Keith David

The Thing and Barbershop star Keith David worked alongside John Witherspoon fairly recently, having appeared in three 2015 episodes of Black Jesus, in which the late actor starred as Lloyd. Paying tribute to his former co-star, David tweeted: "The Father has called home yet another soldier! RIP my brother! What a good man!! He made the world a funner place in which to be! #JohnWitherspoon."

Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper showed off his own comedic chops while hosting Saturday Night Live for a second time just days before John Witherspoon's death. While sharing a gif of one of Witherspoon's classic quotes from Friday — "You win some, you lose some. But you live, you live to fight another day." — the musician tweeted out: "God bless John Witherspoon. The definition of an icon. Wow."

Marsha Warfield

Stand-up comedian and Night Court alum Marsha Warfield shared her condolences with her Twitter followers, while highlighting John Witherspoon's impact on her early career in comedy. "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 hesitated to share leads, advice, contacts, introductions or anything else," Warfield wrote in a multi-tweet thread. "And even though we hadn't seen or talked to each other much over these past few years, I consider him more than a friend, but part of my family." 

She added, "My condolences to all who loved him...And to the man I called Johnny Spoon I say, we miss you already, brother. May you rest forever in peace. This one hurts."

Kerry Washington

Long before she made it big on Shonda Rhimes' Scandal and delivered a standout performance in Django Unchained, actress Kerry Washington played daughter Vanessa opposite John Witherspoon's "Pops" in the 2006 Wayans Brothers comedy Little Man. "Oh my goodness. What a devastating loss," Washington tweeted after the news of Witherspoon's passing broke. "My love and prayers to the Witherspoon family. I love John so dearly and will truly cherish our hilarious time together on Little Man. XOXOXOXOXOXOX."


In a lengthy Instagram tribute to the late actor, The Roots' Questlove wrote that John Witherspoon was "bar none [his] favorite working/blue collar actor," before sharing why he believed audiences connected with the star's countless on-screen performances.

"John Witherspoon resonated with every last one of us because he represented someone in our family: embarrassing us at gatherings (Boomerang), misrepresenting our generations heroes ('Public Enema'?!), making a jingle about pretty much everything (Grandpa on Boondocks), the neighborhood wino ([Black] Jesus — or better yet Hollywood Shuffle) — the list is endless," Questlove wrote. "History should tell it well, all the greats utilized him on their project for the last 45 years," he continued, before highlighting the likes of The Richard Pryor ShowWhat's Happening!Good TimesWKRP227MartinAmenThe Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Wayans Bros.Living SingleBoondocksThe First FamilyBlack-ish, and Black Jesus. Questlove concluded with, "He will forever be our pop pops. RIP."

Omar Epps

Juice and House actor Omar Epps also shared a touching tribute to John Witherspoon on Instagram. "D**n! Rest easy OG, thank you for sharing your gifts with us, that infectious smile & laugh, and most of all the knowledge & experience," he wrote, captioning a photo of the late actor. "You are appreciated to the utmost! #RIPJohnWitherspoon." 

Busta Rhymes

Legendary rapper Busta Rhymes was among the number of celebs who shared an outpouring of love and admiration for the late John Witherspoon. Sharing a snapshot of the comedian with his followers on Instagram, he wrote, "This one cuts deep. Rest well King John Witherspoon aka Pop's. Love you and thank you giving us so much of you."