Born in New York in 1952, Paul Reubens is an American actor, writer, film producer and comedian best known as his alter ego, Pee-wee Herman. In 1985, Reubens released his first feature box office hit, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, directed by Tim Burton. He was arrested in 1991 in Florida and charged with indecent exposure and arrested again in 2002 for child pornography charges, which were dropped two years later.
Actor and comedian Paul Reubens was born Paul Rubenfeld on August 27, 1952, in Peekskill, New York. Best known as his alter ego, Pee-wee Herman, Paul Reubens was raised in Sarasota, Florida. His interest in entertainment stems from The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, which set up the big-top close to his childhood home. He graduated from Sarasota High School and briefly attended Plymouth State University in New Hampshire before heading to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting.
Once there, Reubens studied drama at the California Institute of the Arts and performed with the improv group The Groundlings during the 1970s. It was there that he developed the Pee-wee character, an innocent man-boy who enjoyed playing tricks on his friends. His signature gray suit, small red bow tie, slicked back hair and silly dance moves completed the caricature. In 1981, HBO aired one of Reubens' live shows, and the Pee-wee phenomenon began.
In 1985, Reubens built on the popularity of his Pee-wee character by releasing his first feature film, Pee-wee's Big Adventure. The movie was directed by Tim Burton and was a huge hit at the box office. With his star on the rise, Reubens soon signed with CBS to develop the seminal Saturday morning children's program Pee-wee's Playhouse, which ran from 1986 to 1990. The show featured appearances by such future stars as Laurence Fishburne and Phil Hartman.
Reubens' career took a tremendous hit in 1991. He was arrested in Florida and charged with indecent exposure. The scandal soiled his squeaky-clean image, and CBS immediately dropped reruns of Pee-wee's Playhouse from its lineup. Reubens initially faced public ridicule, but he worked to rise above the controversy. Appearing as Pee-wee at the 1991 MTV Music Video Awards that same year, he asked the crowd, "Have you heard any good jokes lately?" He also tried to resuscitate his acting career, appearing in such films as 1992's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 1996's Matilda, 1999's Mystery Men and 2001's Blow. On the small screen, Reubens landed a recurring role on the popular sitcom Murphy Brown.
In recent years, Reubens has taken on an interesting mix of projects. He brought his most popular character to Broadway in 2010, starring in The Pee-wee Herman Show. He made his debut as the voice of Jokey in the popular family comedy The Smurfs the following year and worked on its 2013 sequel as well. On television, Reubens has made guest appearances on such shows as Top Chef.
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