Paul Reubens, who played the beloved character of Pee-wee Herman on TV and in films, has died at the age of 70 after a long battle with cancer, his team announced in a Monday, July 31 Instagram post.

“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 began.

“Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit. 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,” it continued. The announcement didn’t specify what type of cancer the longtime Hollywood star was battling.

The post included a quote from Paul prior to his death addressing his fans about why he fought the disease in private.

“Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years. 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,” it read.

Paul Reubens Dead
Photo by Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEI/Shutterstock

A final slide added that Paul “asked that any expressions of sympathy” be made in honor of his parents, Judy and Milton Rubenfeld, to Stand Up to Cancer or organizations that support “Dementia and Alzheimer’s care, support and research.”

Paul was born in Peekskill, New York, on August 27, 1952. He first tried his hand at acting in sixth grade and was hooked, becoming the president of the drama club at Sarasota High School in Florida. Paul went on to attend Boston University, studying theater for one year before transferring to the prestigious California Institute for the Arts.

He came up with his Pee-wee Herman character in 1981 while working er for with the famed Los Angeles improv group, The Groundlings. The Pee-wee Herman Show premiered at The Groundlings Theatre in 1981 and HBO later broadcast an episode of the show to a national audience.

Paul became an overnight success with the 1985 film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, which he cowrote and marked director Tim Burton’s feature film debut. He starred on the quirky children’s show Pee-wee’s Playhouse on CBS from 1986 through 1990, which earned 22 Emmy Awards. Paul followed up his first feature film in 1988 with Big Top Pee-wee. That same year, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The actor resurrected the character in a 2010 revival of The Pee-wee Herman Show in Los Angeles, which later opened on Broadway. The latter aired as an HBO special and was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Special.

Paul starred in many non-Pee-wee film and television roles, appearing as The Penguin’s father on Gotham, and parts in What We Do In The Shadows, The Blacklist, Portlandia, 30 Rock and Everybody Loves Raymond.

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