struggling comedian in the late '70s, Paul joined a comedy
troupe called the Groundlings. The name was a reference
to Hamlet, where Shakespeare refers to the poorer members
of the audience in Elizabethan times. He also legally changed
his last name to Reubens, because he preferred it as a stage
Pee-Wee Herman, a quirky bow-tied man-child, debuted in
1978. The character was inspired by a boy Reubens met in
camp when he was younger. His voice was modeled after a
role he played as a child actor. Pee-Wee was able to get
gigs in many clubs that would not hire Reubens.
Reubens was also in a number of films in the early '80s,
including Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, where he is a hotel
clerk and appears as Pee-wee, Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams,
where he is a coke-snorting psycho "Hamburger Man," and
he was Pinocchio in the Faerie Tale Theater production.