Remembering Paul Reubens: The Pee-Wee Herman Actor

Remembering Paul Reubens: The Pee-Wee Herman Actor
Remembering Paul Reubens: The Pee-Wee Herman Actor

Bringing an iconic character to screens is no easy feat. Altogether, it’s safe to say that Paul Reubens made it look effortless with his portrayal of Pee-Wee Herman. However, the American actor was not completely defined by his role in the Pee-Wee series. He has been in numerous TV shows spanning across genres, further solidifying his stance as a versatile actor.

In a sad twist of events, Reubens passed away on July 30, 2023, after a six-year battle with cancer. He kept this condition under wraps but prepared a statement to be released upon his death. It read, “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.” In that vein, here’s a look back at the actor’s life.

Paul Reubens’ Early Life

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The Pee-Wee Herman actor was born on August 27, 1952, in Peekskill, New York. However, he was bred in Sarasota, Florida. His parents, Milton and Judy Rubenfeld were Orthodox Jews who owned and run a lamp store. Paul Reuben happened to be the eldest of three children. His brother, Luke Rubenfeld, is a dog trainer, while his sister Abby Rubenfeld is a Nashville-based civil rights attorney.

Reubens’ interest in entertainment was sparked by none other than the circus. In fact, he frequently visited the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus whenever they were in Sarasota. Another major influence in his life was the TV show I Love Lucy. By the time he was in high school, the actor was the president of the National Thespian Society. Needless to say, a career in showbiz was practically written for him in the stars.

His Pee-Wee Herman Character Was Birthed Out Of Improv

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During his early days in the industry, Paul Reubens was part of an improvisational comedy troupe, the Groundlings. He worked with the like of Bob McClurg, Susan Barnes, John Paragon, and Phil Hartman. Interestingly enough, he created the character of Pee-wee Herman during a 1978 improvisation exercise. In the spirit of teamwork, Hartman helped Reubens flesh out the character while Paragon came up with a script for the show. Needless to say, their work produced one of the most beloved characters in film.

He Was Rejected By “Saturday Night Live”


Many great actors auditioned to be part of Saturday Night Live (SNL) but lost out. There’s Mindy Kaling, Jennifer Coolidge, Steve Carell, and Jim Carrey. Well, they’re in good company seeing as Reubens was also turned away from SNL. He lost out to Gilbert Gottfried, and in a fit of anger mixed with bitterness, he borrowed money from his parents to stage the Pee-Wee Herman Show. It goes without saying that decision catapulted him to a whole other level. He owes it all to that failed audition.

He Ran Into A Bit Of Legal Trouble

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Behind the cameras, Paul Reubens ran into some trouble with the law in the late 90s. More specifically, he went down for indecent exposure at a theater in 1991. At the end of the day, he entered a plea of no contest. Unfortunately, that was not his only run-in with the law. Later on, in 2002, he was caught with material depicting children engaging in sexual conduct. The actor was charged with a misdemeanor, but it was later dropped as Reuben pleaded guilty to a charge of obscenity instead. While it caused a sort of lull in his career as a whole, his infractions with the law weren’t enough to keep him down.

Paul Reuben Was Active Till 2023

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While he did most of his work in the 1980s and 90s, the actor was still pretty active until 2023. His last credited role was in the animated sitcom Bob Burgers, where he voiced Pat. Some other roles he played in recent times include Edwin in the 2015 film Accidental Love and Pee-Wee Herman in the 2016 movie Pee-wee’s Big Holiday. In television, he played Paul in an episode of What We Do in the Shadows (2019), Pontius Pig in The Tom and Jerry Show, and Dybbuk in Legends of Tomorrow. Needless to say, the curtain has closed for a beloved actor.

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