Paul Reubens, Actor Who Portrayed Pee-Wee Herman, Dies From Cancer

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Paul Reubens, who played Pee-Wee Herman since the 1980s, has died from cancer — a diagnosis he decided to keep private.

Actor Paul Reubens against a yellow backdrop | Image credit: Variety / Penske Media via Getty Images.

Paul Reubens — who was best known for playing Pee-Wee Herman — died of cancer, according to a post on the actor's social media account.

Variety / Penske Media via Getty Images.

Paul Reubens, the actor and comedian known for playing Pee-Wee Herman, has died at the age of 70 from cancer — a diagnosis he decided to keep private from his fans.

Reubens died on Sunday, according to a statement on his social media accounts.

“Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit,” according to a statement on the actor’s Instagram page. “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.”

Reubens also had a posthumous statement prepared, which was posted on his social media accounts. He said, “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 with you.”

Reubens started his comedy career in the 1970s as a member of the comedy troupe the Groundlings in Los Angeles. His most famous role — Pee-Wee Herman — was introduced on “The Pee-Wee Herman Show” in 1981, which led to other opportunities including a weekend morning program on CBS called “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” an HBO special and three feature films: “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” “Big Top Pee-Wee” and “Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday.” Of note, “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” earned 22 Emmy awards over its five-year run. Reubens, himself, was nominated for 14 Emmys and won two.

In addition to playing Pee-Wee Herman, Reubens has also had roles in television and film including “30 Rock,” “What We Do in the Shadow,” “Gotham” and “The Blues Brothers.” He received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 1988 and, according to a representative for Reubens, he had recently finished the first draft of a memoir.

“This is devastating news,” Judd Apatow, who worked with Reubens for “Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday,” wrote on Instagram. “We got to spend many years working with Paul on Pee Wee’s Big Holiday and got to see his genius and kindness up close. He made the world so happy! Some of the biggest laughs I have (ever) experienced was watching him perform live. He is irreplaceable.”

TV personality, Jimmy Kimmel wrote, “Paul Reubens was like no one else — a brilliant and original comedian who made kids and their parents laugh at the same time. He never forgot a birthday and shared his genuine delight for silliness with everyone he met. My family and I will miss him.”

Craig McCraken, cartoonist who is known for creating “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends” and others wrote, “Thank you Paul Reubens. Thank you for your genius, for opening up the doors for smart, silly, subversive, (and) sweet entertainment for viewers of all ages. Thank you for the CalArts class ring, for the annual Christmas cards. Thank you for welcoming generations to the playhouse. RIP.”

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