20 Fascinating Facts About Pee-wee Herman

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Pee-wee Herman, the quirky, bow-tie-wearing character portrayed by comedian Paul Reubens, has left an indelible mark on popular culture. Bursting into the spotlight in the 1980s, Pee-wee became an icon with his childlike exuberance and zany adventures. From TV shows to movies and even a Broadway production, Pee-wee has captured the hearts of audiences worldwide. Let’s dive into 20 fascinating facts about this beloved character and the talented man behind him.

1. Creation of the Character: Pee-wee Herman was created by Paul Reubens while he was a member of the Groundlings, an improvisational comedy troupe based in Los Angeles. He developed the character through various stage performances.

2. The Pee-wee Herman Show: Pee-wee’s first stage show, “The Pee-wee Herman Show,” premiered in 1980 and became a hit. It featured many of the beloved characters that later appeared on the TV show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”

3. TV Debut: “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” debuted on CBS in 1986. The show targeted children but quickly gained a cult following among adults for its clever humor and unique style.

4. Emmy Awards: “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” won 22 Emmy Awards during its run, showcasing its impact on television and its creative brilliance.

5. Iconic Catchphrase: Pee-wee’s iconic catchphrase, “I know you are, but what am I?” became synonymous with the character and is still recognized and referenced to this day.

6. Big-Screen Debut: Pee-wee made his feature film debut in 1985 with “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” directed by Tim Burton. The film was a critical and commercial success, solidifying Pee-wee’s status as a pop culture phenomenon.

7. Arrest Controversy: In 1991, Paul Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure in an adult movie theater, which led to a decline in Pee-wee’s popularity and temporarily put the character on hiatus.

8. Return to the Stage: In 2010, Paul Reubens revived “The Pee-wee Herman Show” for a successful limited engagement on Broadway. The show was later filmed for an HBO special.

9. Pee-wee’s Playhouse Cast: The TV show featured a talented ensemble cast, including Laurence Fishburne (credited as Larry Fishburne), who played Cowboy Curtis.

10. Collaboration with David Letterman: Pee-wee made frequent appearances on “Late Night with David Letterman” and became a recurring character on the show.

11. Friendship with Andy Warhol: Pee-wee had an unexpected friendship with the legendary artist Andy Warhol, who was a fan of the character and often sought Paul Reubens’ company.

12. Pee-wee’s Puppetland: The original concept for “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” was much darker and was initially intended to be called “Pee-wee’s Puppetland.”

13. The King of Cartoons: The character King of Cartoons on the TV show was played by William Marshall, best known for his role as Blacula in the horror film of the same name.

14. Pee-wee’s Inspiration: Pee-wee’s childlike persona was inspired by a mix of characters, including Howdy Doody, Jerry Lewis, and even some of the Marx Brothers.

15. Voice Actor: The voice of Pee-wee’s friend Jambi the Genie was provided by actor John Paragon, who also co-wrote many of the show’s episodes.

16. Pee-wee’s Famous Bicycle: Pee-wee’s signature red bicycle was custom-built for the movie “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.” It became an iconic symbol of the character.

17. The Original Pee-wee Playhouse: The original set for “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” was constructed inside a warehouse in New York City, with much of it designed by artist Gary Panter.

18. Revisiting the Character: After years of keeping the character under wraps, Paul Reubens returned as Pee-wee Herman in 2016 with “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” a Netflix original movie.

19. Simpsons Guest Appearance: Pee-wee made a guest appearance on “The Simpsons” in the episode “Bart’s Dog Gets an F.”

20. 35th Anniversary Celebration: In 2020, Paul Reubens celebrated the 35th anniversary of “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” with a nationwide tour, screening the film in various cities and engaging in Q&A sessions.


Pee-wee Herman, a creation of the immensely talented Paul Reubens, has left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. From his groundbreaking TV show to his iconic catchphrases, Pee-wee’s influence continues to resonate with fans of all ages. Despite ups and downs, the character’s enduring popularity is a testament to the magic of Pee-wee Herman and the genius behind the man who brought him to life.