Born Paul Rubenfeld on August 27, 1952 in Peekskill, NY, Paul Reubens
is an American actor, writer, film producer and comedian best known for his role as hyper Man Child
Spending significant amount of his childhood in Oneonta, New York
, Reubens visited the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, its atmosphere sparking his interest in entertainment and influenced his later work as well as wanting to make people laugh on account of his love of watching I Love Lucy
reruns. He joined the local Asolo Theater at the age of eleven, appearing in a variety of plays during the next six years. After graduating from Sarasota High School in 1970, he attended Boston University for a year before seeking his fortune in Hollywood.
In the mid-1970s, Paul Reubens' acting career grew steadily yet slowly with small roles in theater productions, gigs at local comedy clubs and four guest appearances on The Gong Show
. During his time of pursuing an acting major at California Institute of the Arts as well as working in a string of pay-the-rent jobs, Reubens joined improvisation comedy troupe called The Groundlings
. Among Reubens' contributions to the comedic community were a philandering husband named Moses Feldman, an Indian chief named Jay Longtoe and cult character Pee-wee Herman, who debuted in 1978. Only appearing in ten minutes of The Groundlings
as character Pee-Wee Herman, Reubens nonetheless built up a considerable following, turning out to be a star of the '80s, marking his comedic fictional character's first significant appearance on stage show The Pee Wee Herman Show
Sadly, Reubens' image of Pee-wee Herman was destroyed on July 28, 1991 when he fell victim to a police sting operation while visiting his parents in Sarasota on his summer vacation. Seeking to escape from boredom, Reubens went to catch a showing of X-rated film Nurse Nancy
, where he was arrested for sex charges when detectives allegedly saw him playing with his private parts
. Released on $219 bail, nobody realized what happened until somebody recognized him beneath his long hair and goatee. As a result, CBS
dropped Pee-Wee's Playhouse
and related merchandise was released from its shelves. Reubens agreed to pay a $50 fine plus $85 in court costs as well as producing a thirty second public service message for the Partnership for Drug-Free America commercial. As part of the deal, the county sealed all legal papers relating to the actor's arrest, not leaving Reubens with a criminal record.
In 2002, 11 years after being arrested for masturbating in a movie theater, Reubens was arrested for items of child pornography in his Hollywood Hills home. Originally, a year ago, The National Enquirer reported that a 15-year-old-boy accused Reubens and Jeffrey Jones
(who also worked with Tim Burton) of child abuse. The boy claimed Reubens and Jones forced him to perform oral sex on them, and was doing so for awhile, until the boy backed out, when he was afraid of what might happen to him if it continued. The story was later debunked, and demoted to the child abuse claim being linked only to Jones. The contents of "child porn" turned out to be vintage teenage erotica that Reubens had been collecting in bulk for years, at a time when stuff like this was not viewed as creepy. Nevertheless, Reubens agreed in 2004 to probation for three years, in which he was not allowed to be in the company of minors without their parents' permission.
Despite promising to never reprise his role of Pee-Wee Herman after the scandal marked the virtual death of his iconic character, Paul Reubens revived his cult persona Pee-wee Herman character, bringing him full circle to the more adult theme of the original acts in a 2011 theater
Though his career may never reach Herman's heights again, Reubens landed in offbeat character roles as well as vocal roles.
As Pee-wee Herman
Tropes associated with Paul Reubens:
- As Himself: While portraying his Pee-wee Herman role, Paul Reubens wanted the character wanted to be thought of a real life stand-up comedian who expanded his career by playing himself in films and TV series.
It's also worth noting Reubens' Man Child character has been credited as 'Pee-wee Herman' on talk shows as well like Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Ed Sullivan Show and Entertainment Tonight.
- The Cameo: Has a small part as 'Pinball Proprietor' in Midnight Madness as well as the waiter serving Jake and Elwood when they go find Mr. Fabulous.
- Iconic Outfit: As Pee-wee Herman, it's the signature grey glen plaid suit a size too small, small red bow tie, short black hair, pale skin with red rouge and red lipstick.
- Role Association: For much of the '80s, he always appeared in character as Pee Wee in public. A big part of what made his arrest so shocking was that his mug shot looked so different.
- Role Reprisal: Reubens appeared at Spike TV's Guys' Choice Awards as Pee-wee Herman for the first time since 1991 and plans on doing more projects with the character.
- What Could Have Been: Paul Reubens originally auditioned for Saturday Night Live in 1980 (when the original cast members, writers, and Lorne Michaels left, and Jean Doumanian was hired). On the one hand, the idea of Pee-Wee Herman as a recurring character would have made SNL at the time more palatable (but only if Eddie Murphy were never hired). On the other hand, Reubens' career probably would have stalled or never gotten off the ground if he was a cast member during the sixth season (cited by many as the worst season ever), as, outside of Eddie Murphy and Gilbert Gottfried (and, to a lesser extent, Denny Dillon, Charles Rocket, and Gail Matthius), nobody from season six went on to lasting fame since they were associated with such a horrible season.
- Reubens was also supposed to be the voice of Flapjack on the Cartoon Network show The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, but never showed up to audition, so Thurop van Orman (the show creator) stepped in, doing a Pee-Wee Herman-esque voice.