Today: Feb 29, 2024

John “Pops” Witherspoon bangs it up at Lyman

Tamika Alexander – Arts and Entertainment Editor

The John Lyman Center for Performing Arts has been the main stage for many big name acts such as Wale, J. Cole, and Kevin Hart. John Witherspoon, known for his role as “Pops” in the comedic sitcom “The Wayans Bros” and the dog-catching father in the “Friday” trilogies can be added to the list.

Witherspoon came out on stage and the attire he’s known so well for from his role in the Wayans Brothers: bright colors, a striped shirt, a bow tie and shiny white shoes.

“The Wayans Brothers was my biggest break,” said Witherspoon during a phone interview before the show.

The Wayans Brothers sitcom had five seasons that aired from 1995 to 1999 according to sharetv.org, a website specializing in online television.

Photo Courtesy | blackactors.net
Witherspoon performed at Lyman this past Saturday.

Witherspoon said he moved to New York from Detroit to get his start in comedy but ultimately got his start to fame in Los Angeles.

“I brought my first car,” he said, “and drove from Detroit to LA. My brother used to go to theaters and plays. I took private acting lessons.”

It wasn’t until his acting teacher held his annual comedy show and asked Witherspoon to perform that put the funny bug in him, Witherspoon said.

“I started. I came up with some good little bits and I said ‘hold up now’ I’m good at this,” he said.

Witherspoon’s stand-up comedy was a stepping stone to his film career. He has been featured in movies such as “The Five Heartbeats,” “Sprung,” “Soul Plane” and “Meteor Man.” He’s also been on television shows such as “What’s Happening” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” While these appearances are from years ago, Witherspoon still has an active audience today.

“It’s good,” he said, “the fact that I have a new audience. I have a new generation. I’ve been in television shows. In the movies I used to ad lib. It worked well for me”

During the show, Witherspoon had the crowd laughing at his jokes about the upcoming election, style and childhood memories among other relatable topics.

“I talk about myself, Obama, me liking rap music, my kids. It’s not a clean, clean show, but hopefully it’s entertaining,” he said prior to the show.

He kept the crowd laughing with his jokes about the cold weather in New Haven.

“You know it’s cold when you get out the car and your shoulders instantly touch your ears,” he said.

Witherspoon put on a dance contest that brought laughter and knee slaps to the audience. He had five girls to compete for t-shirts. The girls shook, moved and twisted in hopes of winning a shirt from him. He gave some members of the audience t-shirts and CD’s also.

“He a funny guys,” said Brian Westley, attendee of the comedy show. “I’m 30 and I’ve been watching him on T.V. since I was a kid.”

Westley said he’s looking forward to the next and last addition to the “Friday” series, “Last Friday.”

Witherspoon said he has a few upcoming projects lined up for his fans.

“I’m back on the Boondocks for the fourth and fifth season,” he said. “There will be another ‘Friday’ called ‘Last Friday’ with Katt, Mike, and the gang from the first one. I have a T.V. show out right now called ‘The First Family’ featuring Gladys Knight, Jackee, Marla Gibbs and Christopher Duncan.”

It took a lot of hard work and persistence to get where Witherspoon is today in the entertainment world, he said.

“To be a comic today because we have so many comics,” said Witherspoon, “you have to go to open-mic nights, work out your acts and hope somebody sees you in a big city. Get up and go. If you want it, you have to go get it.”

 

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