John Paragon, the comedian who played the blue-faced genie Jambi on Pee-wee's Playhouse, died on April 3, but his death was not reported until this week. His cause of death was "cardiovascular disease with other significant conditions of chronic alcohol abuse," the Riverside County, California coroner told the New York Post Friday. Paragon was 66.
Paragon was found dead in his Palm Springs, California home on April 3 at around 6 p.m. The Anchorage, Alaska native got his start as a member of the legendary Los Angeles improv group The Groundlings and is best known for his work with Paul Reubens on Pee-Wee's Playhouse. He also wrote several episodes of the cult classic children's show, even earning an Emmy nomination for Best Writing in a Children's Special for Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special in 1988. He also had a cameo role in Pee-wee's Big Adventure, the 1985 film directed by Tim Burton. Although Paragon did not take part in the 2016 Netflix movie Pee-wee's Big Holiday, he did star in the 2010 stage revival of The Pee-wee Herman Show.
R.I.P John Paragon https://t.co/cUo4jXMYPm— The Groundlings (@groundlings) June 18, 2021
"Just heard [Groundlings] legend & bud John Paragon passed. I can't describe how brilliant he was at that theater. Jambi, Ramon, Happy Joe, The Breather, the list goes on and on," actor Timothy Stack tweeted on Thursday. The Groundlings' official Twitter page retweeted Stack, adding, "R.I.P John Paragon."
Reubens, who met Paragon while the two performed with The Groundlings, shared a heartbreaking statement on his website. "He contributed so heavily to my success. Over decades, we performed together, wrote together and hung out together," Reubens wrote. "In our affection for one another (and our competitiveness), we made each other funnier. We felt magical together, and I think sometimes that translated into the work we created." Reubens credited Paragon with creating the magic genie character and called Paragon his "closest friend."
"And through all of those years, we had huge amounts of fun and laughed our asses off together. I really loved him," Reubens wrote. "Rest In Peace, John. I was lucky to know you so deeply. Mekka Lekka Hi, Mekka Hiney Ho, John. Long live Jambi."
Paragon made his film debut in Cheech and Chong's Next Movie in 1980. He also had roles in Eating Raoul, Airplane II: The Sequel, The Frog Prince, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, UHF, and Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. His television credits include Elvira's Movie Macabre, Cheers, Seinfeld, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and You Don't Know Jack.