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 Manchild Pee-wee Herman.
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 Reubens developed.
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 memorably Narmy PSA 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 earlier, 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 as related to Reubens, with the child-abuse charges being limited to Jones. The contents of the "child porn" turned out to be some old teen muscle magazines found among his large collection of vintage erotica that he would purchase in bulk through a buyer, as well as Rob Lowe's notorious 1988 sex tape (the one that showed him having sex with a random 16-year-old he had met at a nightclub in Atlanta). Nevertheless, this was technically a violation, and 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 in a 2011 theater revival, bringing him full circle to the more adult theme of the original acts.
Though his career may never reach Herman's heights again, Reubens landed in offbeat character roles as well as vocal roles.
- The Groundlings (1978)
- Cheech and Chong's Next Movie (1980)note
- The Pee Wee Herman Show (1981)
- The 42nd Annual Golden Globe Awards (1985)
- Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)
- Rock 'n' Wrestling Saturday Spectacular (1985)note
- Back to the Beach (1987)
- Big Top Pee-wee (1988)
- Sesame Street Specialsegment (1988)note
- Moonwalker (1988)note
- Pee-wee's Playhouse (1986 - 1990)
- MTV Video Music Awards 1991 (1991)note
- Pee-Wee Gets an iPad! (2010)note
- Pee-wee Goes to Sturgis (2010)note
- The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway (2011)
- WrestleMania XXVII (2011)note
- Pee-wee's Big Holiday (2016)note
- Pray TVaka (1980) - Jack Chudnowskinote
- Midnight Madness (1980) - Pinball Proprietor
- Nice Dreams (1981) - Howie Hamburger Dude
- Pandemonium (1982) - Johnson
- Likely Stories, Vol. 2segment (1983) - Wally Bile
- Flight of the Navigator (1986) - Trimaxion/Max
- Batman Returns (1992) - Tucker Cobblepot, the Penguin's Father
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) - Amilyn
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) - Lock
- The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge (2004) - Lock
- Dunston Checks In (1996) - Buck LaFarge
- Matilda (1996) - FBI Agent Bob
- Buddy (1997) - Professor Spatz
- Mystery Men (1999) - Spleen
- South of Heaven, West of Hell (2000) - Arvid Henry
- Blow (2001) - Derek Foreal
- Teacher's Pet: The Movie (2004) - Dennis
- The Tripper (2006) - Frank Baker
- Re-Animated (2006) - Golly Gophernote
- Life During Wartime (2009) - Andy
- The Smurfs (2011) - Jokey Smurf
- Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special (2012) - The Riddlernote
- The Final Moments of Karl Brant (2013) - Bennett Ferrymannote
- Tom and Jerry's Giant Adventure (2013) - Screwy Squirrelnote
- Working Stiffs (1979) - Heimlich
- Faerie Tale Theatre (1984) - Pinocchio
- 227 (1987) - Pee-Wee Herman, "Toyland"
- Murphy Brown (1995 - 1997) - Andrew J. Lansing III
- Area 57 (2007) - Aliennote
- Chowder (2007 - 2009) - Reuben
- Dirt (2007) - Chuck Lafoon
- Pushing Daisies (2007) - Oscar Vibenius
- 30 Rock (2007) - Prince Gerhardt Hapsburg
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2009 - 2011) - BatMite
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold — The Videogame (2010)
- TRON: Uprising (2012 - 2013) - Pavel
- Gotham (2015 - 2017) - Elijah Van Dahl
- You Don't Know Jack— Short-lived game show; Paul hosted as "Troy Stevens."
Tropes associated with Paul Reubens:
- As Himself: While portraying his Pee-wee Herman role, Paul Reubens wanted the character 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' Manchild character has been credited as "Pee-wee Herman" on talk shows as well like Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Ed Sullivan Show and Entertainment Tonight. 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.
- 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.
- Paul Reubens also cameos as his cult character Pee-wee Herman in Back to the Beach.
- Camp: His projects tend to prominently feature vintage kitsch in them.
- 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 Reprise:
- 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.
- He also portrayed the father of Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot/The Penguin in Batman Returns, a role he will reprise in a different incarnation and capacity in Gotham.
- Self-Deprecation: After his original arrest, Reubens was presenting at an awards show and started off by asking the audience, "So...heard any good jokes lately?".
- 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 Dillonnote , Charles Rocketnote , and Gail Matthiusnote ), nobody from season six went on to lasting fame since they were associated with such a horrible season.
- Not to mention getting spurned by SNL inspired him to put together his own show. He conceived of the Pee-Wee Herman character on the plane ride home, borrowed some money from his parents, cast his friends from improv, and the rest is history. So he walked away with a successful original character that was all his, not Lorne Michaels' or SNL's.
- 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.