Paul Reubens, the actor best known for portraying the child-like character Pee-wee Herman, has passed away from cancer at age 70.
Today’s secret word is sadness! Paul Reubens, the gifted actor and comedian best known for portraying Pee-wee Herman, died on Sunday at 70. According to Reubens’ estate, the red bowtie-loving ball of energy passed away after a private battle with cancer.
“Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years,” Reubens wrote in an Instagram message posted to fans. “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 an Instagram post “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.”
Where do I begin? I can scarcely think of many actors that shine from my childhood as brightly as Reubens. The word “icon” comes to mind. Still, that needs to be more significant for this titan of entertainment. Reubens joined the Los Angeles troupe The Groundlings in the 1970s, bringing his signature off-kilter comedy brand to the stage. In 1982, Reubens debuted a character he’d been developing for years, Pee-wee Herman. Reubens delighted audiences with racy gags, innuendo, and knee-slapping one-liners in his light gray suit, red bowtie, and flip hairstyle. The show sold out for five months before HBO produced a special about Reubens’ daring comedic approach.
In 1995, Reubens starred in Tim Burton’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, featuring the title character on a search-and-rescue mission to find his stolen bicycle. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure did gangbusters at the box office, with the feature eventually reaching cult status among disaffected youth. Big Adventure‘s sequel, Big Top Pee-wee, was released in 1988 to less acclaim. However, Between 1986 and 1990, Reubens starred in the children’s program Pee-wee’s Playhouse, a variety show featuring notable cameos from Laurence Fishburne (Cowboy Curtis), Phil Hartman (Captain Carl), Natasha Lyonne (Opal), Jimmy Smits (Johnny Wilson), and a neverending roster of celebrity guests.
After several quiet years, Reubens re-emerged with one of my favorite comedies of all time, Kinka Usher’s Mystery Men. Reubens plays the gross-out hero Spleen in the quirky superhero adaptation. With the power of super-flatulence, Spleen wields his farts with unmatched precision and grave consequences. I’m not kidding when I say Mystery Men is one of my favorite films. I’ve seen it more times than I can count and love it more with each watch.
Reubens was more than his Pee-wee persona. The larger-than-life actor also voiced Max, a spacecraft’s wise-cracking interface in Flight of the Navigator, Amilyn the vampire in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lock in Henry Selick and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, Derek Foreal in Blow, Sir Terrence in episodes of Reno 911! Miami, the Desk Clerk in Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, and much more!
We here at JoBlo wish Mr. Reubens safe travels to the Great Hereafter. Many childhoods at this site would not have been the same without Reubens (and, by extension, Pee-wee) making us laugh while helping shape our bizarre sense of humor. We wish Mr. Reubens’ family, friends, and fans love and healing.