The Tragic Death Of John Paragon

The Tragic Death Of John Paragon

June 18, 2021

Fans are mourning the death of actor John Paragon, who was best known for his role in the classic kids TV show, “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” The Riverside County Coroner’s Office confirmed to TMZ in June that Paragon died in April at the age of 66. The cause of the comedian’s death has not yet been revealed.

Born in Anchorage, Alaska in 1954, Paragon kicked off his career in Hollywood when he joined the legendary Groundlings Improv Group. According to his bio on their website, it’s there where he met Pee-wee Herman himself, actor Paul Reubens. This, of course, led Paragon to make his TV debut in 1981 on “The Pee-wee Herman Show.” Fans later came to know Paragon best for his role as Jambi the Genie, which he played from 1986 to 1991 on the Emmy-nominated series, “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”

While many fans recognize Paragon the most from his blue painted face and red turban, the actor appeared on several other popular TV shows, like “Seinfeld,” “Cheers” and “Elvira’s Movie Macabre.” He also had roles on the big screen in movies like “Honey I Blew Up the Kid,” “The Frog Prince,” and the cult classic “Eating Raoul.” Yet Paragon was more than just an actor, he also was a talented writer and skilled performer who did a lot of work behind-the-scenes.

John Paragon worked for Disney

Late actor John Paragon made countless kids laugh for years in his role as Jambi the Genie on “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” He was also the voice of another iconic character, Pterri the Pterodactyl, on the show. But what fans may not know is that Paragon also co-wrote several episodes of the series alongside its star Paul Reubens. One of those episodes was “Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special” in 1988, which, according to his bio on the Groundlings website, earned an Emmy nomination for Best Writing in a Children’s Special. 

Paragon worked with another popular ’80s icon, Elvira herself, Cassandra Peterson. He co-wrote her 1988 movie “Elvira: Mistress of the Dark.” Paragon knew Peterson from their days in the Groundlings Improv Group and he later appeared on her 1981 show “Movie Macabre,” as well as its 2010 reboot “Elvira’s Movie Macabre” as The Breather.

Later in his life, Paragon returned to his improv days when he worked with Walt Disney Imagineering. According to his Groundlings bio, his job there was to create “ways to incorporate improvisational performance into attractions at Disney parks.” In terms of acting, in 2010, Paragon returned to his role as Jambi the Genie, but in the Broadway revival of the “Pee-wee Herman” stage show. Fellow actor-comedian Phil LaMarr put it best when he tweeted, “Ramon Azteca, Jambi the Genie, Mr. Excitement, The Breather, The Paragon of Comedy, Groundling, improviser, writer, performer, producer [Paragon] did it all — and brilliantly.” And we couldn’t agree more!

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