Paul Reubens

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Paul Reubens as Pee Wee Herman.

Paul Reubens (born Paul Rubenfeld on August 27, 1952, in Peekskill, New York), is an American actor, writer, and comedian, best known professionally for his character "Pee-wee Herman".


Early Development

In the 1970s, Reubens performed at local comedy clubs and made four guest appearances on The Gong Show. He soon joined the L.A.-based improvisational comedy team The Groundlings for 6 years, working with Bob Mc Clurg, John Paragon, Susan Barnes, and Phil Hartman. Reubens wrote sketches and developed his improvisational skills. He also forged a significant friendship and working relationship with Hartman, with whom he developed the "Pee-wee Herman" character. Pee-wee was an eccentric man-child with a perpetually giddy disposition.

The Pee-wee Herman Show

Reubens auditioned for Saturday Night Live the season that Eddie Murphy started, but wasn't accepted into the cast. Instead, he started a stage show with the Herman character. Originally, Reubens imbued "Pee-wee" with a sexuality that was later toned down as the character made the transition from raucous night club to children's television (though sexual innuendo was still readily apparent--especially with the "Cowboy Curtis" segments. Curtis was played by actor Laurence Fishburne). His stage show was immortalized by HBO when The Pee-wee Herman Show was aired in 1981.

In 1980, Reubens landed a small role in the film, The Blues Brothers. He also appeared in Cheech and Chong's Next Movie in 1980 and Nice Dreams in 1981, and Meatballs Part II in 1984 with Misty Rowe.

Pee-wee's Big Adventure

While on a Warner Bros. set, Reubens noticed that most of the people rode around on bicycles, and asked when he would get his. Warner Bros. presented him with a refurbished 1940s Schwinn; Reubens then abandoned the Pee-wee Herman script he was writing in favor of one about Herman's love for his bike and his efforts to locate it once it's stolen. Hartman and Reubens co-wrote the script for Pee-wee's Big Adventure and in 1985 the film was directed by Tim Burton.

Pee-wee's Playhouse

The following year, Pee-wee (along with Hartman) found a home on the small screen with the Saturday morning children's program Pee-wee's Playhouse on the American CBS network. The show starred Pee-wee living in a wild and wacky house, full of talking chairs, animals, robots, and other puppet and human characters. The show was enormously popular with children, as well as young adults who often partied all night and remained awake through the morning specifically to view the program.

"Pee-wee" was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 1986, credited as "Paul Mall", Reubens provided the voice of the spacecraft computer in Walt Disney's Flight of the Navigator.

In 1988, Reubens reprised the role of Pee-wee Herman in a sequel to Pee-wee's Big Adventure, titled Big Top Pee-wee.


On July 26, 1991, Reubens was arrested in Sarasota, Florida for allegedly masturbating in an X-rated adult movie theater. The news media went into a frenzy and the scandal marked the near death of the character "Pee-wee Herman." Although the series, Pee-wee's Playhouse, had already ended by that time, CBS dropped its reruns from their lineup. Reubens made a deal with the Sarasota County court: in exchange for a fine and a few public service announcements, Reubens was given a clean record.

Reubens appeared as Pee-wee for the last time in the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, where he was given a standing ovation. Pee-wee asked the audience, "Heard any good jokes lately?"

Post-arrest work

Reubens continues to appear in film and on television, with notable film roles in Batman Returns, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Dunston Checks In, Mystery Men, and Blow; and TV guest appearances in Murphy Brown and Everybody Loves Raymond. He also hosted a short-lived TV game show based on the popular computer game You Don't Know Jack.

Reubens has been a member of the Church of the SubGenius since 1981, though the Church has stated that he still owes them $10 in membership fees.

In 2001, Reubens announced plans for bringing Pee-wee Herman back for another film or two, but, as of 2005, has not achieved this goal.

Arrest II

Reubens was arrested again in 2002 in connection to an investigation involving child pornography and actor Jeffrey Jones. Public news stories concerning his case cast doubt upon the suggestion that Reubens intentionally acquired child pornography, as he stated that he was a collector of "erotic artwork" and he had a sizable collection of vintage erotica with samples dating back to the 18th century. On March 22, 2004, child pornography charges against him were dropped after he pleaded guilty to a "separate misdemeanor obscenity charge."

Future Plans

In an Entertainment Weekly interview, Reubens said he is currently working on a few television and movie ideas, and that Hollywood, he hopes, has not seen the last of Reubens or his alter-ego, Pee-wee.

External links


  • Reuters news article on Reubens ( which states: "No images of child pornography were found by police in their analysis of the computer equipment seized from Reubens' home."
  • Fresh Air interview ( - November 29, 2004
  • Dateline NBC interview ( - April 5, 2004

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