Name at birth: Paul Reubenfeld
Paul Reubens played Pee Wee Herman, the sweetly juvenile prankster in a red bow tie, in the Saturday-morning children's program Pee-wee's Playhouse. Reubens was a member of the improvisational comedy group The Groundlings (along with Phil Hartman) in the 1970s, where he developed the Pee-wee character. Pee-wee was an asexual man-boy who combined kitsch with off-beat humor, and by 1985 the character was so popular that Reubens got his chance for a feature film. He hired newcomer Tim Burton to direct, and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was a surprise box office hit. CBS ended up giving him a shot at a children's show on Saturday mornings, Pee-wee's Playhouse. The show was popular with viewers and critics, but ended in 1990, and in 1991 Reubens was arrested in Florida and charged with indecent exposure. Reubens stopped performing as Pee-wee but still got occasional roles in movies, such as Matilda (1996), Mystery Men (1999, with Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo), Blow (2001, co-starring with Johnny Depp and Penelopé Cruz) and Life During Wartime (2009). In late 2009 Reubens resurrected the Pee-wee character for a stage show.