HomeEntertainmentJohn Paragon, ‘Pee Wee’s Playhouse’ Star, Dies at 66

John Paragon, ‘Pee Wee’s Playhouse’ Star, Dies at 66

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: John Kisch Archive/Getty Images

Actor John Paragon has died. Audiences best remember Paragon for starring in the children’s TV series “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” in the 1980s. Paragon was 66-years-old.

According to TMZ, Paragon actually passed away in April. But his family only recently reported his deaths to media outlets. So far, they haven’t revealed the cause of Paragon’s death. But fans of Pee-Wee Herman will miss Paragon’s colorful role.

On the show, Paragon played Jambi the Genie. He was one of Herman’s frequent companions on the show and made for a standout addition in an already zany show. Paragon worked with frequent collaborator Paul Reubens, who also played Herman, on the project.

Paragon and Reubens actually met back when Pee-Wee Herman was only a stage production assistant. Paragon joined the writing team for Reubens’ stage shows. But Jambi the Genie was born soon after on stage. The writer turned actor gained the effect by putting his head through a hole in a box. Of course back then, the show catered toward a more adult audience.

CBS later picked up the show, and Reubens reformatted it for children. But Paragon kept his role as Jambi on the show. His frequent catchphrase was “Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney ho!”

John Paragon and His Career

Of course, John Paragon also played a background role in “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” as well. He acted as a writer for multiple episodes and also directed a large part of the series. Additionally, he voiced Pterri the pterodactyl on the show as well. The show initially ran from 1986 to 1990 but also spawned several movies.

Paragon got his start in comedy as part of the Groundlings. The comedy group formed in Los Angeles and consisted of himself, Reubens, Cassandra Peterson (famous for Elvira), and the late Phil Hartman. Paragon later helped write the 1988 film “Elvira” leading to the popular character. He continued to work closely with Peterson throughout their careers on various projects.

Paragon continued to find work in Hollywood as a writer and director. As an actor, he appeared in a recurring role as Cedric on “Seinfeld” in the 1990s. But Jambi ended up being his most iconic creation. In 2010, Paragon got to step into the role one last time.

He joined Reubens on Broadway for a revival run of “The Pee-Wee Herman Show.” Once again, he donned the blue makeup of the genie. Later, Paragon found work with Disney working on comedy routines for their theme park employees. Fans will remember him for the joy he brought and laughter. To Paragon, “Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney ho!”