Pee-wee Herman actor Paul Reubens dies from cancer aged 70

Paul Reubens, the actor who played Pee-wee Herman, a nerdy character who wore a grey suit and red bowtie while delighting children and adults alike with his distinctive "heh heh heh" laugh, has died, a post on his Instagram account said on Monday (local time).

Reubens, 70, died overnight after a years-long battle with cancer, the post said.

"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 post said.

In a message to his fans that he wrote before he died, Reubens said that he apologised for not going public with his six-year battle with cancer.

"I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from my friends, fans and supporters," he wrote. "I have love you all so much and enjoyed making art for you."

His career derailed in 1991 after Reubens was arrested on charges of indecent exposure at an adult movie theatre. He pleaded no contest and served 75 hours of community service.

In 2004, Reubens pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possessing obscene material in Los Angeles. He was sentenced to three years of probation. As part of an agreement, prosecutors agreed to drop a second charge of possessing child pornography. The actor maintained that the pictures at the centre of the case were part of his art collection.

Reubens was born Paul Rubensfeld in 1952 in Peekskill, New York. He began his career as an improvisational comedian and stage actor in the 1970s when he joined the Los Angeles troupe The Groundlings, according to, a database of movies and celebrities.

 Paul Reubens 'Pee-wee Herman'.
Paul Reubens 'Pee-wee Herman'. Photo credit: Reuters

In 1982, Reubens appeared in a popular stage show in Los Angeles known as "The Pee-wee Herman Show" as the lead character, which he developed. In 1986, the Saturday morning television show "Pee-wee’s Playhouse" debuted, launching Reuben's career that also included two feature films as Pee-wee Herman.

Reubens' remarkable body language, facial expressions and line deliveries provided adoring fans with tongue-in-cheek moral lessons and off-the-wall satire.

The show's main setting was Pee-wee’s so-called playhouse, his place of residence, which was populated with puppeteers attired as objects that spoke and had personalities, including his adored armchair, Chairy, and the perky sunflowers on the windowsill along with other loony characters.