Paul Reubens, the creative mind behind the energetic and dynamic character known as Pee-wee Herman, died on Sunday (July 30) after a private battle with cancer. He was 70. “Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit,” read the statement announcing the death of the comedy legend and beloved personality. “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.”
As Pee-wee, Rubens was known for his television series Pee-Wee’s Play House and cinematic exploits (Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Big Top Pee-Wee, Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday). However, Paul’s career reached far beyond the funhouse, as did his impact – as seen by the many stars who mourned him after his death.
“Paul was one of the funniest actors I knew and a great friend,” Cheech Marin said in a statement to HollywoodLife. “He was an indelible character in our movies and will be so missed.”
Paul had notable appearances in Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie and Dream On!, as both he and Cheech & Chong were getting their start at the same time.
“No tweet can capture the magic, generosity, artistry, and devout silliness of Paul Reubens,” wrote late-night legend Conan O’Brien. “Everyone I know received countless nonsensical memes from Paul on their birthday, and I mean EVERYONE. His surreal comedy and unrelenting kindness were a gift to us all. Damn, this hurts.”
No tweet can capture the magic, generosity, artistry, and devout silliness of Paul Reubens. Everyone I know received countless nonsensical memes from Paul on their birthday, and I mean EVERYONE. His surreal comedy and unrelenting kindness were a gift to us all. Damn, this hurts.
— Conan O’Brien (@ConanOBrien) July 31, 2023
“Love you so much, Paul,” wrote Natasha Lyonne, while clips from her appearance on Pee-wee’s Play House. She played the character Opal, per IMDB. The Poker Face star added, “One in all time. Thank you for my career & your forever friendship all these years & for teaching us what a true original is.”
Love you so much, Paul. One in all time. Thank you for my career & your forever friendship all these years & for teaching us what a true original is. ♥️♥️💔 #PaulReubens #PeeWeeHerman ♥️ pic.twitter.com/GMcBaEgWix
— natasha lyonne (@nlyonne) July 31, 2023
“The great Paul Reubens has moved on to a better place,” wrote Jack White on his Instagram page. Jack shared images from the “Steady, As She Goes” video which he mentioned along with his heartfelt message.
“Creator of the genius character Pee Wee Herman, and an actor and comedian of incredible talent, Paul was a good friend to me and reached out any time he felt I was in need. A generous soul who never forgot a birthday or Christmas card for those he loved. He had incredible taste in music and was very funny in everyday life. I first got to witness his gift while filming a video for the Raconteurs together, and we became friends instantly. I was just thinking about you last night Paul, peace be with you.”
The world learned about Reubens’ death via a statement posted to his official Facebook on Monday, July 31. “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 wrote. “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 message also included, presumably, a message from Reubens himself. ” “Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years,” the message read. “I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect for my friends, fans, and supporters. I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you.”
While many will remember Reubens for the childlike innocence wrapped up in a gray suit and a red bowtie, his other notable appearances include playing the father of Danny DeVito‘s character, The Penguin, in Batman Returns, as well as films like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blow, Matilda, Life During Wartime, and Mystery Men. He also expanded his legacy on television, appearing on The Blacklist, Murphy Brown, and more. He was also a prolific voice actor, lending his talents to animated shows like Chowder, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Tron: Uprising.
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