Paul Reubens, actor and comic behind Pee-wee Herman, dies at 70

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Paul Reubens, the actor and comic who portrayed Pee-wee Herman on the stage and display screen, has died. He was 70.

The veteran kids’s entertainer, who created and starred in “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” died Sunday from most cancers, in keeping with an announcement shared Monday on the Pee-wee Herman Instagram web page.

“Final evening we stated farewell to Paul Reubens, an iconic American actor, comic, author and producer whose beloved character Pee-wee Herman delighted generations of kids and adults together with his positivity, whimsy and perception within the significance of kindness,” the assertion learn.

“Paul bravely and privately fought most cancers for years together with his trademark tenacity and wit. A gifted and prolific expertise, he’ll endlessly stay within the comedy pantheon and in our hearts as a treasured good friend and man of exceptional character and generosity of spirit.”

The submit additionally included a quote from Reubens.

“Please settle for my apology for not going public with what I’ve been dealing with the final six years,” he stated. “I’ve all the time felt an enormous quantity of affection and respect from my pals, followers and supporters. I’ve liked you all a lot and loved making artwork for you.”

Born Paul Rubenfeld in Peekskill, N.Y., on Aug. 27, 1952, Reubens was the eldest of three kids and grew up primarily in Sarasota, Fla., earlier than going to Boston College and the California Institute of the Arts.

Accompanied by a speaking chair and pterodactyl named Pterri, Reubens established his place within the pop-culture zeitgeist with a maniacal snicker, form-fitting grey swimsuit and purple bow tie whereas embodying the man-child who ran amok on Saturday mornings in the course of the TV run of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” The CBS collection aired from 1986 to 1990 after which yielded the big-screen variations “Pee-wee’s Massive Journey,” directed by Tim Burton, and “Massive High Pee-wee” within the Eighties. Stage exhibits adopted in more moderen years., as did Netflix’s 2016 follow-up “Pee-wee’s Massive Vacation,” produced by Judd Apatow.

The character — whose catchphrase was, “I do know you might be, however what am I?” — truly originated onstage as a darker satire than the one who endeared himself to generations of followers. Reubens created Herman within the late Seventies throughout his run with the Los Angeles improv group the Groundlings. The stay “Pee-wee Herman Present” debuted at a Los Angeles theater in 1981 and was successful each with children throughout matinees and adults at a midnight present.

The present carefully resembled the format of the TV program that may carry Reubens nationwide acclaim. It featured stock-character visits together with his buddies Captain Carl, performed by the late “Saturday Night time Stay” star Phil Hartman; Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart); Mailman Mike (John Moody); Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne/Phil LaMarr); and Jambi the Genie (the late John Paragon).

“I occupy this distinctive place in some individuals’s childhood the place there was a cut-off date the place I influenced them indirectly,” he instructed The Occasions in 2014. “I don’t need to get corny on you, however I’m sort of corny, and that’s one of many biggest issues about my profession, I get this unbelievable suggestions from individuals on a regular basis. After I exit now, somebody will come as much as me and say, ‘I’m an artist due to you.’

“I didn’t actually set out to try this, however it’s enormously satisfying,” he stated.

Though Reubens cemented his dweeby persona with kids, adults and artists of all ages, that light-heartedness soured — and swiftly became a punchline — in 1991 after he was arrested in an grownup movie show in his hometown on suspicion of indecent publicity. The Sarasota arrest information took the nation by storm with a mixture of horror and numerous late-night punchlines and ill-informed man-on-the-street interviews. His infamous mug shot — the actor wore no make-up and had lengthy hair and a beard — additionally made the rounds, relegating him for years to exile from the leisure trade.

Months after the arrest, Reubens pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor cost of indecent publicity. Based on The Occasions’ experiences, the turning level within the case apparently got here when Reubens’ attorneys disclosed to the prosecution a videotape shot by a safety digicam within the foyer of the theater on the evening the performer was arrested. His lawyer stated the time code on the videotape confirmed that Reubens was within the foyer when an undercover detective alleged that he noticed the actor masturbating within the theater.

“It’s a method to keep away from 5 days of a chaotic trial,” a supply near Reubens instructed The Occasions. “This example has been devastating to Paul, and he has develop into nearly an entire recluse. This is a chance the place the prosecution has supplied him no file of guilt. He personally feels exonerated.”

Police additionally raided Reubens’ Hollywood Hills dwelling in 2001, and the subsequent yr, the actor turned himself in to the Hollywood Division of the LAPD, which arrested him on a misdemeanor cost of possession of obscene materials improperly depicting a baby. In 2004, he pleaded responsible to a misdemeanor obscenity cost and was positioned on probation after hanging a plea cut price. Prosecutors dropped the extra severe expenses of kid pornography.

Finally making a comeback as an actor and as Herman, Reubens noticed his profession develop into as eclectic as his signature persona: The actor’s credit included appearances on the TV collection “Murphy Brown,” “Grime,” “Pushing Daisies” “Gotham” and “The Blacklist.” Extra not too long ago, he performed the doll-like disembodied spirit often called Dybbuk on the CW’s “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.”

He additionally landed visitor spots as Herman on “Sesame Avenue,” “WrestleMania” and “WWE Uncooked,” amongst others, ” and stuffed his resume with regular voice work on animated packages, together with “Tron: Rebellion,” “Batman: The Courageous and the Daring” and “Phineas and Ferb.”

Reubens additionally embodied his signature character on theater levels and, in 2021, after a viral Twitter marketing campaign, he guest-hosted a radio present as Herman for KCRW-FM (89.9).

He’s survived by a brother, Luke Rubenfeld, and sister, Abby Rubenfeld.

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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