Paul Reubens was born Paul Rubenfield on August 27, 1952 in Peekskill, New York. After his birth, his family moved to Sarasota, Florida, where his parents purchased a lamp store. At a young age he exhibited interest in acting, later showing his talent in school by participating in stage productions.
After graduating from high school, Paul moved between several universities before graduating from the California Institute of the Arts. He joined a group of improvisational comedians called the Groundlings, which included Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz.
In 1978, Paul began experimenting with the alter ego Pee-Wee Herman. Pee-Wee Herman was a 60s era man with short black hair that wore a gray suit with red bow tie and brown leather shoes. Using the personality, he developed a night club act called the "Pee-Wee Herman Show", which became very popular due to its offbeat comedy. In 1981, the show ran for five months straight at the Los Angeles Roxy nightclub, and every show was sold out.
In 1984, Paul auditioned for the cast of Saturday Night Live, but was not accepted. In 1985, he worked with his friend Phil Hartman to produce "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure", which was directed by Tim Burton. The film's plot essentially followed Pee-Wee's attempts to recover his stolen bicycle by following the trail of clues all over the United States. Warner Brothers was cautious with the release, but after noticing its popularity, released the film widely with a lot of marketing.
In 1986, Paul's Pee-Wee Herman Show act was finally given the chance for mainstream attention. CBS hired him to produce and star in what would become "Pee-Wee's Playhouse", which was a Saturday morning children's show featuring his bizarre antics. The show became very popular and ran until 1991.
In 1988, Paul released his second film using the Pee-Wee Herman personality, "Big Top Pee-Wee". The film showed Pee-Wee's forays into the world of the circus, his romance with two women, and his agricultural experiments. The film was not nearly as successful as the first one and ended up being a box office disappointment.
After the failure of the movie, Paul decided to ditch the Pee-Wee act and announced publicly that he would no longer use it. Over the next several years, he stayed out of the public eye until 1991. That year, he was arrested and convicted for masturbating in a porno theater that was showing the XXX film "Nurse Nancy". After the formal charges of indecent exposure were announced, CBS canceled his show and ceased all sales of Pee-Wee Herman merchandise.
Despite the public scandal, Paul continued to act. In 1992, he held small roles in Batman Returns and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In 1993, he voiced a character in Tim Burton's acclaimed "The Nightmare Before Christmas". Over the rest of the 90s, he made many appearances on the television show Murphy Brown and the public slowly let go of his 1991 incident.
In 2000, he was given a huge role in the production of "Blow" as Derek, a drug dealer. In the movie he starred alongside acting heavyweight Johnny Depp and Paul received much critical acclaim for his performance. In 2001, he returned to television as the host of "You Don't Know Jack". In 2002, another scandal erupted when police found child pornography in his home in Los Angeles.
Despite his sexual mishaps, Paul Reubens has been and remains one of the most creative comedic personalities on television and film.