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Paul Reubens! The Death And Life Of A Comedy Hero!

“I know you are, but what am I?”

You knew when Paul Reubens said this, you were in for a childishly funny time! But sad news comes this day which will break many hearts: Reubens, who played child-like adult Pee-wee Herman in the 1980s and 90s, has recently passed away after a six year battle with cancer. The battle was not revealed until today; July 31st, 2023. Reubens died the night prior.

Reubens’ Death

The many faces of Paul Reubens! Picture credit to hollywoodreporter.com

NBCnews.com in their recent coverage shared a statement from Reubens’ “Pee-wee Herman” Facebook page: “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,”

The statement went on to include: “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.”

“Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years,” Reubens shared in a statement given along with the announcement of his death. “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 In Memory

Groundlings members (and good pals) Cassandra Peterson/Elvira (left), John Paragon/Jambi the Genie (middle), and Paul Reubens/Pee-wee Herman (right)! Picture credit to movieweb.com

Much like real-life best friend Cassandra Peterson and her own legendary character — Elvira, Mistress of the Dark — Reubens originated Pee-wee Herman during his time with comedy troupe The Groundlings. Pee-wee went on to have a popular show which got turned into an HBO channel special and Pee-wee took off like a rocket after that! He became so popular that he got his own movie: Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) about Pee-wee’s cross-country search for his bike! This in turn saw the character into his own half-hour children’s television show Pee-wee’s Playhouse (1986-1990).

Paul Reubens (left) as father of villainous Penguin in Batman Returns! Picture credit to wired.com

Oh sure, Reubens played other characters over the years: he was a bit rude as The Spleen in superhero comedy Mystery Men (1999), he sank his teeth into the role of vampire lieutenant Amilyn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), and he had a few quiet roles in Batman Returns (1992) as Penguin’s father and in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) as impish Lock. But who could forget his role as orangutan-hunting Buck LaFarge in Dunston Checks In (1996)?

By the way, did you know he was the voice of Star Tours‘ original droid pilot RX-24?

I remember the man very well, it’s fair to say. Reubens touched my life as Pee-wee Herman whose silly antics made me laugh as an 80s/90s kid and made me clutch the pearls a little at the double entendres only adults would understand; that’s how he worked best, playing both worlds for fun! He made me feel that it was perfectly okay to be silly and expressive.

Max (left) played by Paul Reubens guides young co-star David Freeman played by Joey Cramer (right)! Picture credit to stuff.co.nz

But I will always remember him for his role as the robot “Max” from Disney flick Flight of the Navigator (1986). While his voice was disguised to sound deep and mechanical, there was still a warm, child-like quality which emerged once Max became a bit more human having scanned young David Freeman’s mind. Oh, once you hear him nagging or laughing, you instantly know it’s Pee-wee! But yes, Reubens made Max a character I’d want to go adventuring with in a sleek spacecraft.

Remembering Paul Reubens

Fly on, Paul/Pee-wee! Picture credit to tickets.icfilmscene.org

I’m sure many long-time fans of Paul Reubens can imagine our old comedy hero soaring off into the sky just like he did in the finale of The Pee-wee Herman Show (1981)… Yeah, that’s a solid close to a chapter of our hearts’ memory of someone who enriched our lives as children and adults alike. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go re-explore Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and remember.

Remember Paul Reubens’ influence in comedy? Comment below! Check out this Geek News Now article about Star Tours — the Star Wars ride which Reubens provided his voice! Also, subscribe to Geek News Now and give its Facebook page a like!

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