Many people are unaware of the fact that Paul Reuben, the actor who played the iconic character in the world of comedy — Pee-wee Herman — was also the person who created the character.

Reuben, who died on Monday at the age of 70, after battling cancer, created the character which would bring him fame in the 70s and 80s all by himself, with a little help from members of the The Groundlings.

Back in 1978, he was engaged in an improvisation exercise with The Groundlings, where Reubens had the idea to create the character of a man who wanted to be a comic but was so inept at telling jokes. Phil Hartman, fellow member of The Groundlings helped him develop the character while another Groundling, John Paragon, helped write the show.

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Although his character was compared to other famous characters, such as Hergé’s Tintin and Collodi’s Pinocchio, Reuben was determined that his character was an original one and not a copy of any other specific character.

In 1970, Reubens appeared in a production of Life with Father, where he was cast as one of the most obnoxious characters in the play. That is where he found the voice he would use for his Herman. The cartoon-like way of speaking became Pee-wee’s signature voice.

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Then came the question of naming the character. The first name came from a one-inch Pee Wee brand harmonica owned by Reubens as a child. The surname Herman was derives from last name of an young boy full of energy whom Reubens knew from his youth.

Even the clothing chosen for the character had a history behind it. The small gray suit Pee-wee always wore was the very suit worn by Groundlings Director and Founder Gary Austin. He passed it on to Reubens. How Herman came to wear the red tie is less clear. According to Reubens, before a performance, “someone” handed him the “little kid bow tie.”