- Comedian Paul Reubens, best known for his character, Pee-wee Herman, died on July 30, 2023, at the age of 70.
- A statement revealed that Paul had been privately battling cancer for several years.
- Paul himself wrote a statement apologizing to his fans for not "going public" with his cancer battle and expressing his love for his fans and supporters.
Pee-wee's Playhouse was a force of nature that could only come from the mind of someone like Paul Reubens. He created the titular character and brought him to life in a special, three movies, a television show, as well as a Broadway play. To say that this memorable personality was one-of-a-kind hardly does him justice and yet we continue to quote anything related to Pee-wee Herman to this day. As a reminder, Large Marge sent us.
In a deeply moving yet heartbreaking Instagram post to Paul Reubens's own page, it was announced that the beloved comic passed away on July 30, 2023, at the age of 70. The world feels far less colorful than it did before his death, and wherever he is certainly grew more vibrant with his arrival. Here's what we know about his cause of death.
What was Paul Reubens's cause of death?
A caption beneath a stately photo of Paul states he "bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit."
It begins by applauding his character Pee-wee Herman who "delighted generations of children and adults with his positivity, whimsy, and belief in the importance of kindness." The statement went on to say, "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."
In a subsequent slide, Paul himself asked for forgiveness in keeping his battle from the public for the last six years. "I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from my friends, fans, and supporters," he wrote. "I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you." He also asked that "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."
The world may never see another Pee-wee Herman.
The lines between Paul Reubens and Pee-wee Herman were certainly blurred at times, mostly because an impish sense of humor lived in both, but Pee-wee was very much a childlike version of Paul. Before Pee-wee was brought to his playhouse, he was born where many delightful characters were born: The Groundlings.
The Los Angeles–based improv theater was responsible for incredible comics like Phil Hartman, Will Ferrell, and Kristen Wiig, but in 1981, it decided to dip its toes into alternative comedy. When its 'Pee-wee Herman Show' became a huge hit, HBO shot a special that would soon give way to movies and a fever dream of a television show called Pee-wee's Playhouse.
The show ran Saturday mornings on CBS for five seasons, from 1986 to 1990, and also featured a young Hartman and Laurence Fishburne. However, there was also a cast of characters designed to amuse children in their wackiness. From a talking chair to a pterodactyl puppet, back down to a disembodied genie, the series was equal parts acid trip and learning experience. It would eventually earn 15 Emmys.
In March 2020, Paul Reubens was a guest on the Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend podcast where we got a peek behind the Pee-wee Herman curtain. It turns out the material that separated Paul from Pee-wee was still thin in some places. For example, every year on Conan's birthday Paul would send steadily send him animated gifs all day long. It's exactly what Pee-wee would do.
What was great about Pee-wee, and of course Paul himself, was the reminder that at any time you can be a kid again. Growing up doesn't mean growing out of the things you loved as a child. It doesn't matter what people think; if you want to put on a bowtie and ride your favorite bike around town then do it. And if someone throws an insult in your general direction because they don't understand the freedom that comes with being this goofy, simply look at them and say, "I know you are, but what am I?"