It’s always sad to lose a beloved celebrity– but it stings especially hard when it comes without warning and is someone that, although you may have never met, made a joyful and memorable contribution to not only your life but the life of so many others.
John ‘Pops’ Witherspoon was the embodiment of this.
He committed to a bit better than anyone, never broke character, and could ad lib stuff funnier than anything written on the page. It’s no wonder that in most of his scenes, you can’t see the other actor’s face– because Witherspoon was so funny that getting an acceptable take would require the most strict discipline from his costars! Witherspoon spoke of being hired for small parts that ended up bigger due to his comedic chops. You could call action, turn him loose, and just end up with gold.
Witherspoon had a long career that reached its apex in the late ’80s and early ’90s with memorable appearances in movies like Hollywood Shuffle, House Party and Boomerang, but he really made his mark playing Ice Cube’s father, ‘Pops’ Jones, in the Friday franchise. You could come away from any of these films talking about how much you enjoyed them– but you’d always be quoting John’s lines because they burned into your brain. I’m 44-years-old now, and I still regularly parrot his material in my daily life.
I go to get a snack or drink and see one of my kids? Here comes, “Every time I come into the kitchen, you in the kitchen!” When my wife and I are watching TV and someone gets knocked down or beaten up, one of us is guaranteed to shout, “Get up, Craig!”
In a way, I guess that’s the most fitting tribute for Mr. Witherspoon. He may be gone, but his comedy is timeless and will continue to entertain people for generations to come.
Rest in peace, ’Pops’. The world is a little less funny today without you in it…
But we’ll take comfort knowing you are at that great Winky Dinky Dog in the sky, teaching folks how to “coordinate”, and never having to worry again about those kids blasting their Public Enema music late at night!