We Now Know Paul Reubens' Cause of Death

Actor known for Pee-wee Herman character battled 2 aggressive forms of cancer, per death certificate
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2023 12:17 PM CDT
Updated Sep 9, 2023 7:00 AM CDT
Pee-wee Herman Actor Paul Reubens Has Died
In this Nov. 11, 2010 file photo, Paul Reubens, in character as Pee-wee Herman, attends the after-party for the opening night of "The Pee-wee Herman Show" on Broadway in New York.   (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, File)
UPDATE Sep 9, 2023 7:00 AM CDT

In a notice posted online after his death, Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman, said he was sorry for never publicizing his cancer battle. As it turns out, he was fighting two types of cancer, and they were both aggressive. According to Reubens' death certificate, seen by the Blast, the 70-year-old actor's primary cause of death was acute myelogenous leukemia, a form of blood and bone marrow cancer. Reubens also had metastatic lung cancer and died from "acute hypoxic respiratory failure" likely brought on by his condition, per the certificate. Acute respiratory failure occurs "when your lungs cannot release enough oxygen into your blood," per Healthline. The death certificate notes that Reubens was cremated and that his remains will be interred at the Hollywood Forever cemetery.

Jul 31, 2023 12:17 PM CDT

Paul Reubens, better known as Pee-wee Herman, has died at the age of 70. He shared a message to fans in an Instagram statement posted after his death. "Please accept my apology for not going public with what I've been facing the last six years," which the post's caption explains was a private battle with cancer. "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."

Per Variety, the caption reads in full, "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. 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."

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Variety and USA Today take a look back at Reubens' career: He began developing the Pee-wee Herman character in the 1970s while part of the LA-based comedy troupe the Groundlings. A stage production called The Pee-wee Herman Show ran for five sold-out months in 1980. An HBO special followed, and Reubens then made the 1985 film Pee-wee's Big Adventure with Tim Burton, in which Reubens "toned down the innuendo to make Pee-wee family-friendly," notes USA Today. Netflix brought the character back to life in 2016 with the film Pee-wee's Big Holiday. (Read more obituary stories.)

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