The comedian and actor had battled cancer for six years.
According to a statement on his official Facebook page, Paul Reubens, the actor and comedian best known for portraying Pee-wee Herman on television and in movies for decades, passed away at age 70 from cancer.
The statement regarding Reubens added, “Last night we said farewell to Paul Reubens, an iconic American actor, comedian, writer, and producer whose famous character Pee-wee Herman charmed generations of kids and adults with his positivism, humor, and conviction in the importance of compassion.
The statement continued,
“Paul bravely and secretly battled cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit.” He will always hold a special place in the comedy pantheon and in our hearts as a beloved friend and a man of extraordinary character and generosity of spirit. He is a creative and prolific talent.
Please accept my apologies for keeping what I’ve been going through private for the past six years, Reubens wrote in a message that was published on his Instagram page at the same time as the news of his passing. “I’ve always had a lot of love and respect from my friends, fans, and supporters.
I have cherished creating art for everyone of you and have appreciated doing so. The declaration is authored by “Paul Reubens.”
Reubens was born on August 27, 1952, to Milton Rubenfeld and Judy Rosen in Peekskill, New York. Reubens spent a lot of his childhood years in Sarasota, Florida, going to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performances.
He decided to pursue acting after graduating from high school and attended Boston University. Reubens traveled to California to pursue his acting goals after spending a year in Boston, where he enrolled as a student at the California Institute of the Arts.
His acting career started out in tiny roles in the middle of the 1970s, including guest spots on TV’s “The Gong Show” in 1976 and membership in the Groundlings, an influential improv comedy group.
Emergence of Pee-wee Pee-wee Herman, the iconic character created by Herman Reubens, first appeared in a 1977 improv stage performance with The Groundlings. The idea of a man who wanted to be a comedian but had problems remembering punch lines gave rise to the childish character. The character’s catchphrase was Herman’s high-pitched anxious chuckle and his well-known retort, “I know you are, but what am I?”
Herman was cast as a receptionist in “Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie” in 1980, which featured Reubens as Pee-wee. The Pee-wee Herman Show, which Reubens also brought to the stage at the Roxy Theater in Los Angeles, ran for five months to sold-out audiences and was shown on HBO in 1981.
Reubens’ star was firmly on the upswing by 1984. He gave a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and he kept gaining popularity by making character-based guest appearances on chat shows including “Late Night with Robin Williams is paired with TV programs like “Mork and Mindy” and “David Letterman.”
Tim Burton’s “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” which Reubens, Phil Hartman, a former “SNL cast member, and Michael Varhol co-wrote, despite receiving negative reviews, continues to be a cult classic. The sequel “Big Top Pee-wee” for the big screen came out in 1998.
Following “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” Reubens brought Pee-wee to television in “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” a live-action children’s comedy series that ran for five seasons from 1986 to 1990. Future stars Laurence Fishburne, Natasha Lyonne, S. Epatha Merkerson, Phil Hartman, and others played roles on the show, which expertly combined surrealism and broad comedy. Due to the success of the program, Reubens received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988.
During the ceremony, Reubens as Pee-wee exclaimed, “I’m so excited and glad, this is really the highlight and highpoint of my whole career.” “I just hope I don’t let anyone down, that you enjoy my new movie, and that I keep doing cool, new, interesting, and enjoyable things.”
Reubens’ career took a turn for the worse in 1991, right before “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” came to an end, when he was jailed in Sarasota, Florida, for masturbating at an adult movie theater. In the end, he chose not to contest the allegations and received a community service sentence; however, the extensive media coverage severely damaged Reubens’ reputation and forced him and Pee-wee to temporarily retreat from the public spotlight. Reubens did make a few guest appearances in movies and TV shows as various characters, most notably in the movie adaptation of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and in the TV sitcom “Murphy Brown,” for which he received a primetime Emmy nomination.
In 2002, Reubens once more found himself in legal trouble after Los Angeles police searched his home and found thousands of items, including photos, that Reubens and his attorney described as vintage collectible “kitsch,” whereas the city attorney’s office described the items as a collection of child pornography. Two years later, Reubens’ child pornography charges were withdrawn in return for his guilty plea to a misdemeanor obscenity charge.
Reubens continued to work in spite of the controversy, making appearances in a number of television series such as “The Blacklist,” “Gotham,” and “What We Do in the Shadows.” Most recently, Reubens played Pee-wee in the 2016 Netflix movie “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.” Reubens was also a very successful voice artist.
Actress Natasha Lyonne, who costarred in “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” alongside Reubens, gave a heartfelt eulogy for the actor on X following the news of his passing.
Paul, I love you so much,” Lyonne remarked. “One in history. Thank you for launching my career, for our enduring relationship throughout the years, and for showing us what a real original is.