Actor Best Known For Portraying Pee-Wee Herman Dies At 70

Alan Light

Article updated with cause of death.

Actor and comedian Paul Reubens became a household name for the character he portrayed on the show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” Pee-wee Herman. Reubens came up with the idea for the character in the 1970s. In 1985, he stared in his own movie “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” and from 1986 through 1990, his show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” was part of the Saturday morning lineup of children’s entertainment on CBS.

Reubens, cause of death has been revealed a little longer than a month after his death. Several news organizations have obtained the death certificate which lists the cause of death as “acute hypoxic respiratory failure”. This is a condition when your lungs cannot release enough oxygen into your blood.

The late actor was suffering from two types of cancer at the time of his death. The primary cancer was listed as acute myelogenous leukemia, and was listed as a contributing factor in the actor’s death.

Myelogenous leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow according to the Mayo Clinic.

The actor’s second cancer was metastatic lung cancer. A cancer that spreads to a patient’s other lung and different parts of the body.

Now, on the Instagram account for the character Pee-wee Herman, the actor’s estate shared the sad announcement that Reubens has died at the age of 70. The cause of death was cancer, a diagnosis he kept hidden from his fans for the past six years. Reubens died on July 30, 2023.

The post explains, “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.”

Then the sad announcement explains Reubens’ cause of death. “Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit.”

The post includes a picture of Reubens dressed in a black shirts and black suit with a tiny Pee-wee Herman doll in his pocket. Besides the picture, the post also contains a quote from Reubens apologizing to this fans for not disclosing his illness. He wrote, “Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing for 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.”


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A post shared by Pee-wee Herman (@peeweeherman)

During his career, he won two Emmy awards. Besides played Pee-wee Herman, he also had other acting credits including parts on shows like “The Conners” and “What We Do in the Shadows,” as well as roles in movies like “The Blues Brothers.”

Five years ago, which would have been after he was diagnosed with cancer, Reubens sat down for an interview with Conan O’Brien. During the interview, he reminisced about his childhood and the character that made his famous.

Rest in peace.