Robin Hamilton | 12/2/2009, 2:56 a.m.
John Witherspoon admits he has no problem telling the truth – and being brutally honest about it. This weekend, the comedian will be coming to Boston to perform his standup, and he has plenty to say about the international state of affairs.
“I talk about global warming, Obama’s one year in office,” Witherspoon says. “It’s no way a clean act. I say some profanity.”
Witherspoon says politics are often a staple in his routine, and while he is proud to have the first African American in the White House, he has a lot to say about what the President has walked into.
“He inherited such a horrible state of the country,” Witherspoon says. “I would never want to be the President of this country. Be careful what you ask for. He’s done remarkable with what he was left with. But he is spending a lot of money.”
Witherspoon himself is no stranger to stepping into the spotlight and delivering the money phrase when he is performing. Some of his most notable performances have been in movies like “Boomerang,” where he coined the phrase “You gotta Co-ordinate” and “Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!”
He also was the scene-stealer in movies like “I’m Gonna Get You Sucka” and the “Friday” films featuring Ice Cube. Witherspoon credits his standout power to his ability to make a script, or a character, his own. “You use your own materials,” Withersponn says. “I created a character.”
Witherspoon says he believes ownership for his work comes from his years as a stand-up comic. Raised in Detroit, he got the acting bug when he watched his brother and sister-in-law perform in a local theatre troupe.
“I thought, ‘I think I want to do that,” he recalls. “I think I want to be an actor.’ ”
After taking an acting class, he began to perform, and realized that doing impressions was his strong suit. “I would do a bit where there was a reporter who would ask me questions, and I would do a Lyndon Baines Johnson impression, and then started doing a Johnny Mathis impression,” Witherspoon explains. “That’s how it started.”
The laughs he received pushed him in the direction of comedy, and he never looked back. He has been touring for years now on the comedy circuit, and says that he made sure to create his own character whenever he was on stage.
“I would go on stage with white Gucci shoes and a bow tie,” he laughs. “I’d be broke, but I was all set.”
Today, he still credits stand-up as the backbone to his career. “I never did leave,” he says. “I was always doing my comedy. If I was doing a TV show, I would do a [stand-up] show on the weekends.”
Witherspoon says that dedication to his craft has allowed him to maintain longevity in his field, a trait that he says more young performers need to recognize if they want to have a long-term career.
“One thing about the Hollywood rollercoaster, I do my standup, I do these performances, anything to keep myself above water,” he says. “ And you can’t be lazy in Hollywood. I use all my talents. You cannot predict what you are going to do. You have to be ready for anything.”
Witherspoon says that the comedic stage has gotten more crowded today, but he encourages anyone interested in taking that jump to stretch.
“You have to go where they are hiring comics,” he says. “You can be in a small town and be the funniest person, but you might want to broaden your horizon and have other people see you.”
Witherspoon then jumps into character: “Get on the big stage,” he quips. “See if you get nervous. Wet your pants!”
Now with more than 30 years behind him on the stage, and a full calendar of stand-ups dates for next year, does he still get nervous? “No,” he deadpans. “It’s what I do.”
And he has no intention of doing anything else.
John Witherspoon will be performing at the Wilbur Theatre Saturday, December 5th at 7:00pm. For more information, you can contact the Wilbur Theatre at http://www.thewilburtheatre.com.