RIP: Paul Reubens aka Pee-wee Herman Dead At 70

In sad news that’ll have us flashing back to Big Adventures, bicycles, red bowties, and secret words of the day, Paul Reubens, the actor best known for creating and portraying the iconic role of Pee-wee Herman, has died at 70 after a battle with cancer. It was an illness that Reubens chose to keep private.

“Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years,” wrote Reubens in a statement posted to Instagram posthumously. “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.”

Reubens’ career began in the 1970s as part of the Los Angeles comedy scene. In 1980 he launched The Pee-wee Herman Show, a stage production in which he portrayed the childlike, effeminate character. After a series of sold out shows and an HBO special, Pee-wee would explode onto the big screen with 1985’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, directed by Tim Burton. Who could forget Pee-wee and his stolen red bicycle, leading him on a chaotic journey across the United States? The hit film would be followed up three years later with Big Top Pee-wee, a less successful sequel.

The success of Pee-wee on the big screen led to the launch of Pee-wee’s Playhouse on CBS Saturday mornings. The series, which also featured actors Phil Hartman and Laurence Fishburne in the cast, would run for five seasons and win 15 Emmy awards.

Pee-wee’s popularity transcended mainstream comedy and into music. Rap group Joeski Love released “Pee Wee’s Dance”, a song and video which featured Pee-wee Herman and his memorable dance move prominently. I know, because I was a kid who used to do that dance and thought it was super cool.

After a hiatus in which Reubens largely stayed out of the spotlight, the Pee-wee Herman character would reemerge with a popular Broadway stage show in 2010. In 2016, Reubens joined with Judd Apatow for Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, a Netflix film and the official third film in the trilogy.

We here at Punch Drunk Critics send our condolences to the friends and family of Paul Reubens.


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Travis Hopson
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.