Paul Reubens, Actor Who Played Pee-wee Herman, Dead at 70

The beloved actor had been secretly battling cancer for several years.

Paul Reubens, the beloved actor who portrayed Pee-wee Herman, has died. He was 70 years old. The late comedian's death was first announced on his official 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," read the statement on Reubens' social media page. "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 post also included some final words from Reubens. "Please accept my apology for not going public with what I've been facing the last six years," the entertainer wrote in his last public statement. "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." Finally, Reubens reps explained, "Paul asked that any expressions of sympathy be made in honor of his late parents, Judy and Milton Rubenfeld, to Stand Up to Cancer or organizations involved in Dementia and Alzheimer's care, support and research."

Reubens was born in Peekskill, New York in 1952. The eldest of three children, Reubens would grow up to attend college at Boston University and California Institute of the Arts before going on to a career in show business. He began doing stand-up comedy in the '70s and, near the end of the decade, he created Pee-wee Herman during an improv exercise with The Groundlings. 

Pee-wee Herman was introduced to the world through a stage performance, The Pee-wee Herman Show, which ran from 1981 until 1984. In 1985, Ruebens starred in Pee-wee's Big Adventure, the character's major motion picture which was directed by Tim Burton and written by Reubens, Michael Varhol, and late SNL actor Phil Hartman, who has previously helped to develop the quirky character. The film spawned two stand-alone sequels: Big Top Pee-wee (1988) and Pee-wee's Big Holiday (2016).

Perhaps the most notable Pee-wee Herman project would be Pee-wee's Playhouse, a children's series which ran on CBS from 1986 until 1991. The series introduced fans to a number of bizarre and funny characters in Pee-wee's whimsical house, such as a talking chair and a magic genie. The show remains beloved by fans, and has twice been ranked in the top 15 on TV Guide's Top Cult Shows Ever.