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Obit Paul Reubens Pee-wee Herman

Source: MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images / Getty

Paul Reubens, the actor that became a cultural icon thanks to his Pee-wee Herman character, passed away over the weekend.

On Monday (July 31st), social media accounts for the actor announced his passing.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 caption read.

A short time later, another personal statement from the comedian and writer was released. “Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years,” it 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.”

Born in Peekskill, New York, Reubens skyrocketed to fame after being passed over for Saturday Night Live in the 1980s after creating “The Pee-wee Herman Show” at Los Angeles’ Groundling Theater. The show featured Pee-wee in a signature gray suit and red bow tie (which he found backstage at the theater) living in Puppet-Land with all his friends.

His mastery of the character’s world, merging reality and fiction, led to him being booked for his first feature film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, in 1985. That film, which was also Tim Burton’s directorial debut, was a smash success leading him to star in the CBS children’s program Pee-wee’s Playhouse which ran from 1986 to 1991. The immersive dreamscape-like show featured many well-known actors from Laurence Fishburne to the late Phil Hartman.

Towards the end of the show’s run, Reubens would encounter scandal after being arrested for indecent exposure at an adult movie theater in Florida. His career took a major hit, but Reubens would make notable appearances in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Batman Returns. The late 1990s and early 2000s saw him stay the course with appearances on TV shows and a strong turn in 2001’s Blow with Johnny Depp as a gay drug-dealing hairdresser.

Reubens would bring Pee-wee back in 2010 in stage shows in New York and Los Angeles, and six years later he’d do a Netflix special, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, produced by Judd Apatow. In the wake of his passing, many have offered their own tributes and recollections of the comedian. Conan O’Brien wrote on Twitter: “His surreal comedy and unrelenting kindness were a gift to us all. Damn, this hurts.”

Paul Reubens aka “Pee-wee Herman” Dies at 70  was originally published on