John Paragon, ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse’ Star, Dies At 66
John Paragon, best known for his work on Pee-wee's Playhouse, has died at 66 years old. The actor and writer brought the characters of Jambi the Genie and Pterri the Pterodactyl to life, while also penning and directing multiple episodes during the show’s run. According to TMZ, an official at the Riverside County Coroner reported that Paragon passed back in April of 2021, but his death only became widely known on Thursday night. The cause of death, per TMZ, was “aAtherosclerotic cardiovascular disease with other significant conditions of chronic alcohol abuse.”
A longtime member of the Groundlings comedy team, Paragon frequently worked alongside Paul Reubens, Phil Hartman, and Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson. He and Peterson had a particularly fruitful collaboration — he co-wrote her 1988 Elvira movie and contributed to her various TV series. In reaction to the news, Peterson posted a heartfelt tribute to Paragon on Twitter Friday morning:
Paragon was a part of the original team responsible for bringing Reuben’s Pee-wee's Playhouse to the stage, continuing his role as Pee-wee’s box-headed genie companion Jambi when the show was developed at CBS. While Reubens was the main face and voice behind Pee-wee's Playhouse, Paragon played an invaluable role in bringing the show to life.
Following the series’ end, Paragon continued to work in Hollywood in various capacities. He directed two feature-length films, Double Trouble and Twin Sitters, starring “Barbarian Brothers” Peter and David Paul. He also had a three-episode stint on Seinfeld. TMZ reported that his most recent job was with Walt Disney Imagineering, where he developed improv routines for performers at the Disney parks.
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