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Actor Paul Reubens, aka PeeWee Herman, Dies at 70

Written by on July 31, 2023

Paul Reubens, the actor best known for portraying Pee-wee Herman, died Sunday night after a private bout of cancer. He was 70.

“Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years,” wrote Reubens in a statement posted to Instagram after his death. “I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from my friends, fans and supporters. I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you.”

“Last night we said farewell to Paul Reubens, an iconic American actor, comedian, writer and producer whose beloved character Pee-wee Herman delighted generations of children and adults with his positivity, whimsy and belief in the importance of kindness,” wrote Reubens’ estate in the caption. “Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit. A gifted and prolific talent, he will forever live in the comedy pantheon and in our hearts as a treasured friend and man of remarkable character and generosity of spirit.”

Reubens began his career in the 1970s after joining the Los Angeles live comedy troupe the Groundlings as an improvisational comedian and stage actor. In 1980, he launched “The Pee-wee Herman Show,” a stage production centered on a fictional character he had been developing for years. As Pee-wee became a cult figure, Reubens’ show ran for five sold-out months, and he landed a special at HBO. Reubens also committed to the character in his interviews and public appearances.

In 1985, he teamed with Tim Burton on “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” the character’s feature film debut, which was a critical and commercial success. Reubens returned three years later for a follow-up film, “Big Top Pee-wee,” helmed by Randal Kleiser. The character transitioned to television from 1986 to 1990, on CBS’ weekend morning show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”

Reubens’ image as a beloved childhood hero was tarnished when, in 1991, he was arrested for indecent exposure at an adult movie theater in Sarasota, Fla. At the center of a national sex scandal, Reubens backed away from Pee-wee and began doing press as himself. He wouldn’t again reprise the iconic role until 2010, when he revived “The Pee-wee Herman Show” on Broadway and made several other appearances, on “WWE Raw” and in a couple of digital sketches for Funny or Die. In 2016, Reubens co-wrote and starred in Netflix’s “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” a sequel to 1988’s “Big Top,” which would serve as Reubens’ final film role before his death.

Throughout his career, Reubens starred in a variety of other projects as well, including Kinka Usher’s superhero comedy “Mystery Men” and Ted Demme’s biographical crime drama “Blow.” He also made appearances in television series including “30 Rock,” “The Blacklist,” “Pushing Daisies” and “Reno 911!”

More to come…

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