Actor Paul Reubens Dies. A Look at His Life and Legacy
We learned about the death of actor Paul Reubens on July 27 this year. People best knew the actor for playing the character Pee-wee Herman in the whimsical and lighthearted children’s TV shows, The Pee-wee Herman Show and Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
Reubens died of cancer in Los Angeles. His life and career were full of ups and downs, sometimes leading to legal problems. Yet, he remained dedicated to children’s television and comedy and his characters became household names. Fans around the world paid tribute to the late actor in the form of heartfelt social media posts and videos.
The Birth of an Icon
Paul Rubenfeld, who would later adopt the stage name, Paul Reubens, was born on August 27, 1952, in Peekskill, New York. He grew up in Sarasota, Florida, and got into acting in his small local theatre doing comedy and improvisation.
Reubens attended Boston University for a short time before enrolling at the California Institute of the Arts. It was in Los Angeles that he honed his craft in comedy and improv and met some of the faces that would get his career going.
While performing in LA, Reubens developed the character Pee-wee Herman, an exuberant, childlike figure with a distinctive voice and an infamous cackle. He made guest appearances in movies like Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie and Nice Dreams. The character became the lead for “The Pee-wee Herman Show,” an infamous live stage show that was later bought and produced into a TV show by HBO.
Reubens went on to star in “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” in 1985, directed by Tim Burton. The film was a pop-culture hit, solidifying Reuben’s Pee-wee Herman as an American cultural icon. After “Big Adventure”, Reubens created “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” a children’s television show that aired on CBS from 1986 to 1991. Critics praised the show for its creativity, imagination, and educational content, and it won several awards, including 22 Emmy Awards.
Reubens’ career took a hit in 1991 when he was arrested in Florida on charges of indecent exposure at an adult film theatre. The incident led to Reubens retreating from the public eye for several years and consistent jokes from fellow comedians and the media.
Despite the controversy, Reubens managed to rebuild his career, appearing in films and television roles and ditching the character that made him famous. His more serious roles earned him respect from Hollywood’s heavy hitters and new fans throughout the world.
In 2009, he reprised his role as the goofy Pee-wee Herman in a new stage production. The show’s success led to a new Pee-wee film, “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” which Netflix released in 2016.
Paul Reubens’ influence on comedy and children’s TV is hard to ignore. His quirky and memorable character Pee-wee Herman will always be a symbol of what Hollywood stage comedy can become: a legendary multi-genre act that spans generations.
People around the world will remember Paul Reubens as more than just Pee-wee Herman. He was an artist, a comedian, an actor, and a cultural figure who left a permanent mark on the American entertainment industry that will last for years to come.