John Witherspoon Cooks… and Brings Humor to “A Thousand Words” and More

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Comedian John Witherspoon

By Stephanie Green

Paramount Pictures recently released their latest comedy A Thousand Words which stars Eddie Murphy as Jack McCall, Kerry Washington as his wife Caroline McCall, Cliff Curtis as Dr. Sinja, Clark Duke as Aaron, Allison Janney as Samantha and John Witherspoon as the Blind Man. The film opened in the Top 10 at the box office and is holding steady there.

A Thousand Words poses the question, if a person only had a thousand words left to say before their demise, how would they use their limited number of words. Jack is faced with that question and being the type of person he is – a selfish, fast-talking literary agent who now must learn to live without words, he begins to struggle and learns a lesson at the same time.

I think the focal point in this film is people should learn how to communicate and listening is a key starting point to attaining that goal.

I had the pleasure recently to speak with John Witherspoon who plays the character of a blind man in the film. He had more than a thousand words to say, and much to announce about upcoming roles:
How did your role come about?

Well, they’re showing the trailer so much… it turned out to be so funny with Eddie and I, I’ve worked with him so many times.

Eddie called me and asked me to be the “Blind Man.” (I happened to be) just walking across the street and I said, “Oh, sure.” It turned out to be so funny. It’s amazing how we worked on that scene about three to four days, maybe five. They had to do the timing with the cars and everything and I could see out those glasses I had on. But those buses coming at me, I was like “oh my god I’m going to die…”

Do you think it would have been easier to act out your character if you were actually prevented from seeing?
I think it would have been better. I was told to just keep walking, they were going to do their jobs, but I cut my eyes to the left and I said oh, oh, oh oh…

Are you still voicing the character “Robert Freeman” aka “Granddad” on the Boondocks Television Series?
We’re going back at the end of this month to do the fourth and fifth seasons. Regina King plays the two kids [Huey and Riley] and Gary Anthony Williams plays Uncle Ruckus – he’s Black and hates Black People, it’s so funny. Of course I play the granddad, Samuel L. Jackson plays Gin-Rummy and Charlie Murphy plays Ed Wuncler, III. Ed Asner plays Mr. Ed Rothschild Wuncler, Sr. Plus, I spoke with Ice Cube and he said they’re working on doing another Friday.

You seem to be one of the hardest-working men in this industry, is that intentional?
Well, you know I get out to do stand-up; I work about thirty weeks a year in and out of LA. I will be at Carolines on Broadway in April. It’s a pleasure working at Carolines.

Are you working on any other projects?
Well, you know I’m working on my own cooking show, I’m producing my own cooking show. It’s called Cooking for Poor People. When you’re hungry everything tastes good.

To have a cooking show does it mean that you are a good cook?
Oh yes! I cook all the time. I couldn’t sell my show because I don’t have a shirt on I just have an apron on. They said why don’t you put a shirt on and I said “No, I’m cooking for poor people. I’m on YouTube cooking for poor people.”

On my first show I’m cooking tilapia and tomatoes. I had to go next door to steal tomatoes from my neighbor. So, it’s not just a cooking show, it’s comedy.

What inspired you to create your own cooking show?
Well, you know I’m a cook and a lot of the stuff I like to eat my kids don’t like, i.e., ox tails and white beans and my kids say ughhhh! I remember one time when I had a partner and he had a Jamaican maid, she used to make a seven-bone roast and that thing cost about $3.00! It was a good piece of meat. So I said I can produce a show called Cooking for Poor People and show people how to eat cheap and well. My first show is on YouTube, it can be found at “YouTube/TheJohnWitherspoonCookingFor PoorPeople.com”.

Are you considering your show to debut on television or will it stay online?
People saw my show when I was a guest on David Letterman and said this is a funny show, do you want to do something else with it? I said, “No, I like YouTube.” I don’t have any pressure on me and I cook all I want. I know people who are broke now, like I know a lady who used to be a stripper, she’s too big now to strip so she comes to my house and I cook something good up for her. I have a pole in my kitchen. I know a lady who got ripped-off by Bernie Madoff and she comes by. She used to have servants and live in West Palm Beach, Florida, now she’s eating neck bones with me.

Are you originally from the South?
I’m actually from Detroit but my family is from Mississippi and Arkansas. I lived in Detroit until I was about 27 years old and then I moved to New York City. I couldn’t make it in NYC… I tried to be a fashion model in New York, those cats were taller than me and much prettier than I was. I said, “Let me get the hell out of here!” I left there, got myself an old Mustang and drove all the way to California by myself from Detroit. But it was cool, I was by myself.

Did you not have concerns about being a fashion model in LA?
No, I didn’t have to worry about that. I didn’t tell anyone until they found out I’d been a fashion model in some old pictures they found in Detroit.

Are there any possibilities for you lending your voice to other characters?
Since I’ve been on the Boondocks I’ve been called for other characters and they like my character voicing on the Boondocks so much that they want me to try out for other characters but I say nah, “I’m good on the Boondocks.”

So you have no interest in expanding your voice characters?
I really don’t have the time for other characters. I’m doing very well, especially since we’re entering our 4th season.

I love the design of the characters, they are so amazing and true to life, please speak a little about their design?
They shoot the characters in South Korea that’s why it takes so long to get on the air. At one time Aaron McGruder (Creator and Executive Producer of The Boondocks Television Series based on his comic strip of the same name) was going to quit, he didn’t want to do the series any longer but Sony talked him into getting syndicated. So, that’s why he’s back now.

A Thousand Words is directed and produced by Brian Robbins (executive producer of The CW series SmallVille, and One Tree Hill, Nickelodeon’s Supah Ninjas. He has also directed and or produced films such as Disney’s Wild Hogs, Paramount’s Coach Carter and The Perfect Score, DreamWorks Norbit and Sony’s Radio.) Stephanie Danan and Nicolas Cage are also producers along with Norman GoLightly and Sharla Sumpter Bridgett.

If you need comic relief, catch up with the John Witherspoon Show [April 19th – 22nd] at Caroline’s Comedy Club, located at 1626 Broadway or phone [212] 757-4100.

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