One of the most unique and original comedians ever, Paul Reubens, dead at 70.
Reubens began his brilliant comedic career as a member of The Groundlings improv and sketch troupe in Los Angeles. His legendary character, Pee Wee Herman, was Reubens’ biggest sensation, though he flexed some serious acting muscle in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Gotham” as well as television shows such as “The Blacklist.”
Reubens was notoriously arrested in a Sarasota, Fla., porn theatre (you can read why he was arrested here) back in 1991. Some believed he planned to get arrested to shake off the Pee-wee Herman character, but it was later revealed that he got busted during a random police raid.
After the arrest, Pee-wee Herman jokes became all the rage, such as this one: What are Pee Wee Herman’s favorite baseball teams? The Expos and the Yankees.
Reubens withdrew for months as the humor flew. He re-appeared as his Pee-wee Herman character on an MTV awards show — to thunderous applause — and quipped, “Heard any good jokes lately? So funny I forgot to laugh.”
On Instagram, Reubens thanked his fans and apologized for not revealing that he had been fighting cancer. “Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years. 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,” he posted.
So sorry to hear about this. I was an avid fan of the reliably brilliant Pee-wee’s Playhouse TV show right from the beginning, whatever Reubens’ personal foibles may have been. Then again, though, getting caught spanking it in a pRoN theater? Meh; trite, piffling, mundane stuff. Hell, that sort of thing has become the fabric of everyday life in the Bribem White(bag) House nowadays—that, and much worse to boot. Enjoy this happy little song, and brace yourself for a little something UNEXPECTED!™ afterwards.
As you may or may not know (I confess, I didn’t until just now), the fella playing the role of Kowboy Kurtis above is one of our verymost talented actors of any race, creed, color, or national origin: Laurence Fishburne, who, as it turns out, caught one of his first big breaks on Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Nope, not even joking about that, folks:
It might sound like the stuff of Hollywood urban legends but it was a role on the kids’ TV show Pee-wee’s Playhouse as Cowboy Curtis that helped make award-winning actor Laurence Fishburne a star. Pee-wee’s Playhouse was by no means Fishburne’s first rodeo, of course. He’s been acting since he was a child and counts the 1975 film Cornbread, Earl And Me and a 12-episode stint on soap opera One Life To Live among his early credits.
After lying about his age, a 14-year-old Laurence Fishburne landed a part in Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now as young G.I. Tyrone ‘Mr. Clean’ Miller which led to roles in other Coppola films including Rumble Fish and The Cotton Club during the 1980s. Bit parts in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated film The Color Purple and TV shows like Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice followed but his recurring role on Pee-wee’s Playhouse introduced Fishburne to a wider audience and helped put him on the map.
Fishburne wasn’t the only young talent to get their start on Pee-wee’s Playhouse either. Actors including Sons Of Anarchy star Jimmy Smits, Russian Doll co-creator and star Natasha Lyonne and Golden Globe-winner S. Epatha Merkerson all had parts on the show. Behind the scenes, metalhead and future horror movie director Rob Zombie worked as a production assistant and future filmmaker John Singleton – then a student – worked as a security guard.
Quite the resume Fishburne has going, no? All this, mind, before even getting around to his Morpheus star-turn in the Matrix flicks, too. And to think, it all started with Paul Reubens’ truly inspired Pee-wee Herman character.
Fare thee well, Pee-wee, wherever your irrepressible spirit may roam. Those of us who loved your work won’t soon forget you.