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John Witherspoon (1942–2019), “Friday” actor and comedian

Getty Images / NBCU PhotoBank / Chris Haston

He appeared on “The Wayans Bros.” and voiced Gramps on “The Boondocks”

John Witherspoon was an actor and stand-up comedian best-known for playing Ice Cube’s grouchy father in the “Friday” series of movies. Witherspoon began his movie career in 1980 with “The Jazz Singer,” and made memorable appearances in “Hollywood Shuffle,” “Boomerang,” and “Vampire in Brooklyn.” On television he appeared as Pops in “The Wayans Bros.,” Spoon in “The Tracy Morgan Show,” and voiced Gramps on the animated series “The Boondocks.”  

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Died: Tuesday, October 29, 2019 (Who else died on October 29?)  

Details of death: Died at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 77.  


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Making “Friday”: At the time “Friday” was made, expectations were low for a comedy about life in the hood. In an interview with VLAD TV, Witherspoon claimed he and the other actors only received about $5,000 to appear in the movie. He also said much of his dialogue was adlibbed on set. The result was a comedy classic that spawned two sequels, and larger paydays for Witherspoon and company.  

What people said about him: “I’m devastated over the passing of John Witherspoon. Life won’t be as funny without him.” —Ice Cube, “Friday” co-star  

Full obituary: Los Angeles Times  

Related lives:  

- Nathaniel Taylor (1938–2019), “Sanford and Son” star  

- John Wesley (1947–2019), “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” actor  

- Charlie Murphy (1959–2017), comedian and brother of Eddie Murphy