Paul Reubens, the Artist Behind Pee-wee Herman, Dies at 70

Paul Reubens, the actor best known for bringing the iconic Pee-wee Herman to life, has passed away at age 70, after a private battle with cancer. The shocking news comes to us via a post on his Instagram page.

Paul Reubens got his start at the Los Angeles improv group The Groundlings back in the 1970s. There, he met future comedy stars like SNL’s Phil Hartman, and Cassandra Peterson, a.k.a Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. It was during his time with the Groundlings that Reubens came up with the Pee-wee Herman character, an adult child straight from retro children’s television. After appearing in several late-night talk shows and making a name for his character, Pee-wee received an HBO special called The Pee-wee Herman Show, a parody of kid’s shows from the ’50s.

Paul Reubens as Pee-wee Herman in the 1986-1991 series Pee-wee's Playhouse.

Based on the success of the HBO Show, Reubens received his own feature film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, the first film directed by Tim Burton. It was a huge success in the summer of 1985. The very next year, Reubens took the Pee-wee fever and turned it into Pee-wee’s Playhouse, a Saturday morning kid’s show. It was based on his HBO special (although highly sanitized). Another movie, Big Top Pee-wee, followed in 1988. During this time, Pee-wee Herman merchandise flooded the shelves. And additionally, during the height of this Pee-wee mania, Reubens voiced Captain Rex in the Disney Parks attraction Star Tours.

In 1991, Pee-wee’s career was temporarily derailed, when he was arrested for indecent exposure in Florida. CBS canceled his long-running series, and it seemed like the end of Pee-wee. But Reubens bounced back, first on the MTV VMAs. And later, in a series of other roles in projects like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blow, and TV series like Pushing Daisies. But Reubens never forgot Pee-wee. In 2016, he made a Pee-wee Herman movie called Pee-wee’s Big Holiday for Netflix. Reubens had plans for two other Pee-wee films. One was a “dark” take on the character called The Pee-wee Herman Story. The other, a big screen version of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Sadly, those will now never come to pass. Paul Reubens was 70 years old at the time of his death.

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