Paul Reubens, Pee-wee Herman Actor, Dead at 70 After Private Cancer Battle

The comedian privately battled cancer for six years.

Actor Paul Reubens has died. The comedian, known for his Pee-wee Herman character, died on Sunday after a private battle with cancer, according to a statement released on Instagram. He was 70.

"Last night we said farewell to Paul Reubens, an iconic American actor, comedian, writer and producer whose beloved character Pee-wee Herman delighted generations of children and adults with his positivity, whimsy and belief in the importance of kindness," the statement read.

"Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit," the statement continued. "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."

The Instagram post also included a quote from Reubens himself.

"Please accept my apology for not going public with what I've been facing the last six years," Reuben's statement read. "I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from friends, fans and supporters. I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you."

The post additionally revealed that Reubens asked that any expressions of sympathy be made in honor of his late parents, Judy and Milton Rubenfeld, to Stand Up to Cancer or organizations involved in Dementia and Alzheimer's care, support and research.

Reubens, who was born in Peekskill, New York, started his career in the 1970s when he joined the Los Angeles troupe The Groundlings. During that time, Reubens originated his Pee-wee Herman character.

A sell-out stage show, The Pee-wee Herman Show, came next, and was followed by an HBO special of the same name.

Tim Burton directed Pee-wee's Big Adventure in 1985, and the film was followed by the Randal Kleiser-helmed Big Top Pee-wee three years later. A third film came in 2016, when Pee-wee's Big Holiday premiered on Netflix, marking Reubens' final film role.

The character also appeared on TV, with the series Pee-wee's Playhouse, which ran from 1986 to 1990. Back in 2015, Reubens reflected on the resurgence of the show's success after it became available to stream.

"I did not realize the show being on Netflix would be like being back on television," he told Entertainment Weekly. "Every day I get hundreds of notes from people on Facebook and Twitter, all over the place, 'My 3-year-old, my 4-year-old…' and that's super exciting to think that kids are going to see it now who didn't know about it before."

In addition to the Pee-wee Herman character, Reubens appeared in movies including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, MatildaMystery Men and Batman Returns, and on TV shows such as Saturday Night Live30 RockThe Blacklist, and Gotham throughout his career. 

According to Variety, prior to Reubens' death he was developing two Pee-wee Herman projects, one a black comedy titled The Pee-wee Herman Story and the other a family adventure film called Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Movie.

Following his death, Reubens was remembered by countless comedians including Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien.

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

O'Brien agreed, writing on Twitter, "No tweet can capture the magic, generosity, artistry, and devout silliness of Paul Reubens. Everyone I know received countless nonsensical memes from Paul on their birthday, and I mean EVERYONE. His surreal comedy and unrelenting kindness were a gift to us all. Damn, this hurts."

Judd Apatow also paid tribute to Reubens, commenting on the Instagram post announcing his death.

"This is devastating news. 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," Apatow wrote of the 2016 film that he produced. "He made the world so happy! Some of the biggest laughs I have every experienced was watching him perform live. He is irreplaceable."