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John Paragon, Jambi the Genie on 'Pee-wee's Playhouse,' Dies at 66

TheWrap logo TheWrap 6/18/2021 Madeline Roth
a man wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: john paragon © TheWrap john paragon

John Paragon, the actor and comedian best known for playing Jambi the Genie on "Pee-wee's Playhouse," has died at age 66.

TMZ reported Paragon passed away in April of unknown causes.

Paragon got his start performing improv at The Groundlings alongside classmates like Paul Reubens, Phil Hartman and Cassandra Peterson, all of whom he would work with later in his career.

He made his TV debut in "The Pee-wee Herman Show," a stage show developed by Reubens in 1980. Paragon reprised his role as the sassy genie Jambi in "Pee-wee's Playhouse," which ran from 1986-90, and he even wrote and directed several episodes of the beloved children's show. In 1988, he and Reubens co-wrote "Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special," which earned an Emmy nomination for Best Writing in a Children's Special.

Paragon returned to his performance as Jambi in the Broadway adaptation of the "Pee-wee Herman" stage show in 2010.

Paragon's other TV credits include "Cheers," "Seinfeld," "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Pacific Blue" and "Elvira's Movie Macabre," on which he played the recurring role of "The Breather." On the film side, he appeared in "Echo Park," "The Frog Prince," "Airplane II: The Sequel" and "Honey I Blew Up the Kid."

According to Paragon's Groundlings bio, the actor later worked with Walt Disney Imagineering, where he came up with "ways to incorporate improvisational performance into attractions at Disney parks."

Upon news of his death, The Groundlings tweeted on Thursday, "R.I.P John Paragon."

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