Pee-Wee Herman Actor Paul Reubens Dies at 70

Paul Reubens speaking at a convention

Pee-Wee Herman Actor Paul Reubens Dies at 70

On July 30, beloved actor/comedian Paul Reubens passed away at the age of 70. The cause of death was cancer, which he had been diagnosed with six years earlier. Reubens kept this diagnosis secret from the public, as he wanted to fight this battle privately. His Instagram posted a pre-written message addressing his cancer. The statement said, “Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years. 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.” The world is in mourning of this great loss.

Paul Reubens’ Beginnings

Paul Reubens on Red Carpet
Photo by Daniel Benavides

Paul Reubens was born in 1952, spending much of his youth in New York and Florida. He had dreams of performing for a long time in his youth. After attending Boston University, Reubens went to the California Institute of Arts to study acting. When he was in California, he started performing in comedy clubs and soon joined the famous Groundlings troupe. This troupe is where Reubens first performed his famous Pee-Wee Herman character. After a failed Saturday Night Live audition, Reubens decided to turn his character into a show, which is how the fame began.

The Fame

Paul Reubens on Red Carpet
Photo By Alan Light

After performing The Pee-Wee Herman Show as a one-man show in a sold-out run in Los Angeles, Paul Reubens took HBO’s offer to make a television special of the show. The program had positive reviews that shot up Reuben’s and Herman’s popularity. Guest appearances outside of his show, like in Cheech & Chong specials and on Late Night with David Letterman, brought even more fame. His first film was Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which was a huge box-office success. Then came his television show, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, which aired for five years, from 1986 to 1991. This program’s audience was children, who loved the energy of the show. The show had 22 Emmy awards and cemented the legacy of Herman.

Paul Reubens’ Arrest

In 1991, Paul Reubens was arrested for masturbating in an adult movie theater. He was arrested alongside three other people, and Reubens tried to cover this to no avail. The arrest became a widely known story that led to ridicule and public shaming. It also led to the cancellation of some public promotion and children’s toys, as the incident tarnished his wholesome reputation. However, many of his friends in the industry stood by him, and Reubens was able to move past the shame. The public soon understood that he did not deserve the shame, and even though the memories of the incident had not disappeared, Reubens bounced back.

Paul Reubens in Recent Years

Pee-Wee Herman on red carpet
Photo by Alan Light

Paul Reubens eventually moved on from his Pee-Wee Herman character, and he acted in other capacities. He was in films like Batman Returns and South of Heaven, West of Hell. Reubens also had a recurring role in the popular series Murphy Brown. After more acting jobs, he brought Pee-Wee Herman back. He received the Pee-Wee Herman Show for Los Angeles and then Broadway to much applause. He also made another film, Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday, in 2016. The character was calling back to him, and Reubens always wanted to entertain.

The Reactions

Pee-Wee Herman was an iconic character that many children grew up with. Paul Reubens’ death hit many people hard, as this is the loss of a large presence. Many notable people expressed their grief at his loss. Steve Martin, Kevin Smith, Mark Hamill, and Conan O’Brien are some notable people that expressed their sadness over Reubens’ death. He was a dedicated performer that entertained audiences everywhere, and he will be missed.

Featured Photo by Gage Skidmore

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