Paul Reubens, the actor who portrayed Pee-wee Herman in multiple films and television series, has died at the age of 70.
“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,” reps for the star shared in a statement to Closer on Monday, July 31. “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.”
The TV star was born Paul Rubenfeld in Peekskill, New York, in 1952. He first began his entertainment career as a local comedy club performer after moving to L.A. in his college years. Reubens originated the character for which he became synonymous in the late ’70s amid his work with the comedy troupe The Groundlings. His improvisational skills led to the launch of The Pee-wee Herman Show and several adventure comedy films, including Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Big Top Pee-wee and the series Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
The character and his adventures soared to popularity throughout the ’80s, earning multiple Emmy nominations with its many iterations over the years. In addition to his famous Pee-wee Herman role, Reubens acted in Meatballs Part II, Batman Returns, Matilda, Murphy Brown, 30 Rock, Gotham and much more.
Reubens made his final onscreen acting appearance in a 2019 episode of The Conners. In 2021, he performed voice-over work in episodes of The Tom and Jerry Show and The Crown With a Shadow. Most recently, Reubens finished the first draft of his memoir and was working on two Pee-wee movie scripts. He was also developing projects for television, gearing up to pay homage to his roots with a new variety show.
Prior to his death, Reubens asked that donations be made in honor of his late parents, Judy and Milton Rubenfeld, to Stand Up to Cancer or organizations involved in Dementia and Alzheimer’s care, support and research.
“Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years,” a statement from the actor written before his death read. “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.”