Actor Paul Reubens has passed away at the age of 70. Reubens, best known for playing Pee-wee Herman, had been privately battling cancer for quite some time, news that was revealed in an Instagram post this morning.
“Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years,” Reubens says. “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 first debuted the Pee-wee Herman character with the famous Los Angeles-based improv troop the Groundlings. After failing to land a gig at “Saturday Night Live,” Reubens went full DIY and created the Pee-wee Herman Show, which ran for months on end on stage, leading to other opportunities for the character, including appearing in a Cheech and Chong film. Pee-wee Herman finally hit the mainstream with the release of “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” in 1985. The film, directed by Tim Burton and featuring an insane score by Danny Elfman, was an underground hit.
For those of us who grew up in the ’80s, “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” was absolutely groundbreaking. There were so many iconic moments in the film that resonated with kids in a way adults could never understand, which throughout his career ended up being a calling card for Reubens. For me, there was genius in the way he was able to combine a sense of innocence with the courage to go full bore at all times. There were jokes I didn’t get that my parents giggled at alongside some incredibly silly nonsense.
I first saw “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” at summer camp and when I came home I spoke almost entirely in snippets from the film. I started begging my parents to let me buy Mr. T cereal. Any time my name was called out I would respond with, “That’s my name, don’t wear it out.” I went through all the scotch tape in the house within 30 minutes, placing it on my face and staring in the mirror. And it took a couple hours banished to my room for me to learn that even though it’s funny on screen, my parents don’t appreciate being told “I know you are but what am I?” ad nauseam.
Of course, there was so much more than Pee-wee Herman to Reubens, from his role as a snooty waiter in “The Blues Brothers” to his insane performance as Prince Gerhardt on “30 Rock.” Paul Reubens was a comedic giant who died far too soon and he will be greatly missed. To honor him, here are some tattoos of his most iconic character, Pee-wee Herman.