If you’ve tuned in to Showtime recently, you’ve
probably caught the John Witherspoon You
Got to Coordinate comedy special. Now available on DVD, the show is
reminiscent of some of the classic stand-up specials like Richard Pryor’s Live On Sunset Strip or Eddie Murphy’s Delirious.
The movie and television star, who is proudly
type-cast as America’s ‘Pops’, performs a perfectly executed stand-up routine
that is hysterical from the intro to the finale.
Over a span of four decades, John has appeared on
classic urban television shows like Good
Times, What’s Happening?, Martin, The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, Def
Comedy Jam, The Wayans Brothers
and The Boondocks.
His notoriety escalated after his appearance in Boomerang where he improvised a lot of
his dialogue including memorable lines like, “You got to coordinate”
and “Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang”. In the Friday movies, he’s well-known as Ice Cube aka Craig’s father, and
coined the phrase, “Don’t nobody go in the bathroom for 35-45 minutes”
– which is still repeated daily in households from the hood to the ‘burbs.
Nowadays, John is gearing up for the release of
his first rap/comedy CD, 63 Cent.
With tracks like “Don’t Nobody Go In The Bathroom,” “Dance Now
With Your Big Ole Ass,” “You Got To Coordinate” and “Don’t
Be P***y Whipped,” John is expectantly hilarious, but surprisingly, he
displays rap skills.
Witherspoon plans to bridge the gaps between
Hip-Hop and comedy and the younger and older crowd, while simultaneously
creating his own niche in the music and comedy industries. We caught up with
John to discuss his beginnings with Richard Pryor, his work with Hip-Hop icons
Jay-Z and Ice Cube and the making of his new album.
AllHipHop.com: You really have a connection with
the younger audience, especially within the Hip-Hop community. With you being
an old school Detroit Motown era veteran, what do you think is your key to
success with the younger crowd?
John Witherspoon: I think it’s because of the
movies and television shows that I’ve done. The new generation of people loved
all three of the Friday movies, and
they love The Wayans Brothers show
with Marlon and Shawn. Also, the House
Party movies are a Hip-Hop fan favorite, as well as the cartoon The Boondocks.
I relate to the younger people because those
movies and TV shows kind of stop your aging, so I’m still like a young person
on those projects. Plus I’ve got this Hip-Hop/comedy CD coming out called 63 Cent, so I know they’re gonna love
AllHipHop.com: I’m sure! [Lets] talk about your Showtime
special and DVD, You Got to Coordinate.
How did that situation come about, and how did it feel to have your own
John Witherspoon: Well I worked with Levity
Productions and they own the Improv comedy clubs where I do stand-up. They
said, “Why don’t you just do a live show?” and I said, “Well, I
don’t really wanna do a live show” and they said. “You should do a
live show because you’ve never had one out.” So they put up the money, and
I went and recorded a live show and Showtime bought it right away. Now it’s on
DVD, and that’s good because it promotes your career and it legitimizes you.
It’s funny because I’ve met people that have seen me in the movies that didn’t
know I did stand-up. Just like a lot of people don’t know I can rap!
AllHipHop.com: [laughs] Tell us a little about
your CD, who produced it and what made you want to record a CD?
John Witherspoon: Well my thing is, I see all of
these rappers making all of this money. They’re on MTV Cribs and wearing all that ‘Bling Bling’ and driving fancy cars. [laughs]
I’m proud of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Ice Cube, Nelly and Jay-Z, they’re
making a lot of money. So I said, “If I could rap, I can get some of those
cars and cribs and wear some of that ‘Bling Bling’ and stuff.” [laughs]
So I had some songs that I had written, and I
hooked up with Ted, Brian O. and Khalid aka Big K from K.O. Productionz/Da
Raskulls from Washington, DC. I met Ted out here in L.A. at a party and he told
me that they had a studio, and I told him that I wrote some songs so we
exchanged information. He called a few days later, and I eventually got in the
studio with him, Khalid and Brian. We had great chemistry and they ended up
producing most of the project.
Every time I went to D.C. or Baltimore to perform
at a comedy club, they would come and pick me up and take me to their studio
‘in the hood’ to record. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: Well that’s where you get the flava
from, ‘in the hood’.
John Witherspoon: Yeah, it was cool. We would go
to KFC first and buy a bunch of chicken and I’d drink me a little glass of wine
and go in the recording booth and put the vocals down. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: So you actually wrote a lot of the
John Witherspoon: Yeah I wrote most of it. My
brother Ron also produced three songs including “Sleaze” and
“Nefertiti” and then a couple of songs I wrote with Big K, he wrote
some of the raps for me like “Don’t Nobody Go In The Bathroom” and
“You Can Kiss Where The Sun Don’t Shine” and a few others, but I
wrote the rest of that stuff.
AllHipHop.com: Now speaking of rap and Hip-Hop,
you’ve worked with Hip-Hop icons Jay-Z on the “I Just Want To Love
You” (Give It To Me) video and Ice Cube in all of the Friday movies, and now you’re releasing your own CD. When will it
John Witherspoon: It will be on iTunes almost
immediately. It will be listed in both the Hip-Hop and Comedy categories. I’m
putting up some money and we’re gonna shoot videos for “Don’t Be P***y
Whipped” and “Dance Now With Your Big Ole Ass” – that’s gonna be
some funny sh*t! Trust me! By the way, the Jay-Z video was fun, we had a blast.
It was like a big party.
AllHipHop.com: Did you collaborate with any other
rappers or artists on the CD?
John Witherspoon: Oh no, it’s just me. It may not
be the best rappin’ in the world, but it’s funny as hell. Very entertaining. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: You’ve popularized some hilarious
catch-phrases like “You got to coordinate” “Don’t nobody go in the
bathroom for 35-45 minutes” and of course “Bang, Bang, Bang,
Bang”, which was recently used by Yung Joc and Hot Stylz in the song
“Lookin’ Boy” and…
John Witherspoon: I haven’t heard that one yet,
but I know Ludacris used a few of my lines. He says, “got to coordinate”
in his song “Stand Up”. It’s all good, it’s a compliment. Luda needs
to holla at me and throw me on his label, DTP/Def Jam baby! [Laughs]
AllHipHop.com: Now you even sell T-shirts with
your slogans on the front. What’s your take on the public’s acceptance of your
slogans and why do you think these phrases have been popular for so long?
John Witherspoon: Well you know, I have a
different and unique way of saying things. A lot of these things just come off
the top of my head, like a rapper freestyling. I think my delivery is what
makes my phrases stand out. Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say
AllHipHop.com: You’ve played ‘Pops’ on The Wayans Brothers show, Ice Cube’s
father in Friday, David Alan Grier’s
father in Boomerang and Grandad on The Boondocks. It seems like you’re the ‘go-to guy’ when it comes to these types of roles. Do you enjoy success playing the same type of role, or is there anything else that you would like to do in your lifetime that we haven’t seen yet?
John Witherspoon: No not really, all that stuff is
good for me, it works for me. As long as I’m making money and I keep doing the
‘Pops’ roles and the ‘Grandad’ roles, all that stuff is good for me. You get
type-cast in this business, but I look at it like, “at least I got
type-cast.” A lot of actors and comedians are old and can’t get work, they
can’t catch a cold!
AllHipHop.com: [laughs] Yeah you stay working,
you’re on the road all year long!
John Witherspoon: Oh my God! I’m on the road too
much, it’s a lot! I do about 40 weeks a year.
AllHipHop.com: Wow, that just shows how much
people really do love you and appreciate your work.
John Witherspoon: Well you know the thing is, you
gotta keep putting asses in the seats, that’s the key. [laughs] Somebody gotta
come and see you, or the club’s not gonna bring you back.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah that’s real. Now you had the
unique opportunity of kicking-off your career with comedy legend Richard Pryor
on The Richard Pryor Show. How was it
working with the man that paved the way for so many comedians?
John Witherspoon: Richard was a genius and he was
really amazing with the way he made people laugh. Working with him for all of
those years showed me how to make people laugh and that’s what got me going.
George Carlin just died, and he was another one that made people laugh.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve been around for quite a
while and you have some real power hitting old-time friends, David Letterman
being one of them. You’ve appeared on his show several times. How did you guys
meet, and what kind of relationship do you have today?
John Witherspoon: We met at the Comedy Store
around 1975, he came from Indiana and he didn’t have any money, and he had a
truck and an old dog named Bob. [laughs] We hung out, played basketball but
nowadays I don’t talk to him daily anymore, but they always send me something
for my birthday and I always get on the show, all I have to do is call over
there. We talk after the show, I go upstairs to his office and he shows me
pictures of his son.
AllHipHop.com: You have two sons and a wife,
John Witherspoon: Yeah John David and Alexander,
and I’ve been married for 20 years.
AllHipHop.com: So you’re not one of those typical
Hollywood stories, being married for a couple of seconds and that’s it.
John Witherspoon: No, that’s not me.
AllHipHop.com: Now switching gears, there’s been
talk and rumors about a Friday Part 4
with the whole crew, including Chris Tucker. Do you think it’s gonna finally
happen or is it just talk?
John Witherspoon: I don’t think it’s gonna happen.
Everybody’s old. [laughs] Chris Tucker looks like a… his head got big and he
gained all of that weight. I gained weight, that little midget they had in the
movie is probably tall now. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: [laughs] You’re hilarious! I’ve never laughed so hard during an interview. Yeah, Chris has softened up a little bit, I saw him in the last Rush Hour movie and it just wasn’t the same Chris Tucker.
John Witherspoon: You know, you get all of that
money and you get fat and rich. He’s getting all that money, he’s getting $20
million a movie. I’m fat, but I’m not rich yet. I’m just a multi-thousandaire.
AllHipHop.com: [laughs] You’re not rich? I think
you’re doing alright living up there in the Hills, you’re doing ok! One last
question before we go. You’ve appeared in some classic movies and television
shows since the ’70s. What would you say is the key to your longevity and
staying power in Hollywood?
John Witherspoon: You got to definitely try to
reinvent yourself, and if you’re lucky enough to get a character like me, work
it! You always gotta make sure you come up with new lines, I can also
improvise. I couldn’t always ad lib as good as I do now, and that’s one thing
that kept me going. If you wanna be in this business a long time you gotta stick
with it. Don’t give up!
info on John Witherspoons projects, check him out at Myspace.com/johnwitherspoon