Paul Reubens as Pee-wee Herman sitting in a kiddie pool using a child's fishing rod toy.


The Lesser-Known Stories Of Paul Reubens (And Pee-wee Herman)

"The Gong Show" was notorious for its celebrity appearances, and Paul Reubens used the show as an early showcase for Pee-wee Herman starting in 1977.

The Gong Show

1950s kids' show star Pinky Lee, known for his wacky plaid suit and exaggerated performances, influenced Pee-wee's sartorial style, mannerisms, and approach to comedy.


At age 9, Reubens moved with his family to Sarasota, Florida, the winter home of the Ringling Bros., where he became friendly with his neighbors, who were circus folk.

The Circus

Growing up, he learned aspects of the biz, expecting to one day join the circus. "I could do a lot of circus acts — I could do trapeze, I could do tightrope," he recalled.

Reubens tried out for “Saturday Night Live” in 1980 but knew it was a lost cause when he saw Gilbert Gottfried because, as he put it, "We're both the same type of performer."


However, Reubens did end up on SNL a couple of times as Pee-wee Herman. Once for the Season 11 cold open and again in 2011 in an Andy Samberg digital short.

In the early days, Reubens performed with the LA improv comedy troupe The Groundlings, whose famous alums include Will Ferrell, Jon Lovitz, Elvira, and Phil Hartman.


While appearing with The Groundlings, Reubens began conceptualizing Pee-wee Herman, calling the character's development "organic.”