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Paul Reubens was born in 1952 in Peekskill, New York. He grew up in Sarasota, Florida, however, and began studying theater while still in high school. After graduation he moved to California to study at the Institute of the Arts. Reubens began frequenting the comedy circuit in the 1970’s and eventually joined the Groundlings, the famous local comedy troupe. He remained with them for six years.
Reubens began developing the character of Pee-wee Herman while with the Groundlings in the late 1970’s. Reubens credits Phil Hartman, a fellow Groundling, with assisting him in honing the character, and it was with his assistance that he also launched the Pee-wee Herman Show at the Roxy Theater. The performance was an enormous success, selling out for five straight months, and was eventually picked up by HBO in 1981 as part of On Location, their series. Pee-wee Herman quickly became a household name, and his quick rise to fame led to additional performances in character, including a traveling version of the show performing at such notable theaters as Carnegie Hall in New York and the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
Eventually, Warner Brothers picked up the deal to turn the Pee-wee Herman show into a film, and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was released in 1985. With the character of Pee-wee already becoming a cult phenomenon, the movie was a smash hit and led to the follow-up film, Big Top Pee-wee, and then Pee-wee’s Playhouse, the television series, in 1986. The show ran until 1990. The character became its own franchise, spawning Pee-wee clothes, toys, dolls, and other items.
Some legal tangles in the early 1990’s brought Paul Reubens and Pee-wee away from the public eye for a while, but Reubens resurfaced in a number of small roles in large films, such as: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Batman Returns, Matilda, and Dunston Checks In. He also accepted a recurring role on Murphy Brown, earning him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. Shifting away from his Pee-wee alter ego, Paul Reubens began to re-establish himself as a talented actor with potential beyond the character he had created.
His comeback was fully established with his critically acclaimed performance in the film Blow, alongside Johnny Depp. Since that time, Reubens has enjoyed a quiet but steady career with cameos and guest appearances on shows such as 30 Rock and Dirt, and even branched out to directing, with his debut film The Tripper, in 2007. Paul has also voiced a number of characters for animation, on such shows as: Chowder, Re-Animated, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Tom Goes to the Mayor, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Great Job!
Reubens’s Pee-wee character has also recently resurfaced, appearing on talk shows such as The Jay Leno Show, Saturday Night Live, and Jimmy Kimmel Live! Pee-wee has even opened Facebook and Twitter accounts, and the Pee-wee Herman Show has re-launched in limited run in New York city, debuting in 2011. The pre-ordered ticket sales exceeded three million, an excellent indication that both Reubens and Pee-wee still enjoy tremendous popularity.
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