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August 2, 2023

By “Huckabee” pop culture guru Pat Reeder (

My wife/co-writer Laura and I were both very sad to hear of the death of comic actor Paul Reubens at 70 after a secret six-year battle with cancer. We were longtime fans and saw him live in 2020, doing a Q&A after a showing of “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” We had no idea that he was seriously ill at the time. While he played other roles, he will be remembered as the manic manchild Pee Wee Herman, a role he disappeared into so completely that for a long time, he never appeared in public out of character.

Reubens left behind a final Instagram post, apologizing to his fans for keeping his battle with cancer private, and adding, "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."

His “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” co-star Mark Holman explained that Reubens wanted to make people laugh and he kept a lot of serious things private, like many things he did for children with cancer, where he “didn’t drag a camera crew in with him.”

His movie “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” was the directorial debut of Tim Burton. His Saturday morning show “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” won 22 Emmy Awards. It also featured music by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo fame, which launched him into a new career of composing for film and TV.

It was a kid-friendly version of the parody children’s show for adults that he created when he was part of the Groundlings comedy troupe. That was later turned into a classic HBO special featuring a then-unknown Phil Hartman. You can watch that on YouTube now…

…As well as the entire Saturday morning series for kids that also induced a lot of adults to get out of bed early on Saturday morning.

Finally, this is something that you might not otherwise see. I can’t verify this, but this is supposedly a video message he cut just hours before his death, wishing a fan happy birthday.


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