John Paragon, actor, writer, and director, and best known as Jambi The Genie on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse has died.
Originally from Alaska, Paragon got his start with the Groundlings in Los Angeles, where he worked alongside Reubens, Phil Hartman, Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson, and many other future comedy stars. He and Peterson would have a long working relationship with Paragon co-writing the 1988 Elvira movie.
When Reubens began developing Pee-wee for the stage, Paragon was part of the team that helped write the original shows, shoving his head into a box for Jambi The Genie. When Reubens was given an offer to take Pee-wee over to CBS to create Pee-wee’s Playhouse Paragon was right there with him, continuing to play Jambi. He also voiced Pterri the pterodactyl, wrote multiple episodes, and directed a large number of of the show’s episodes.
Paragon continued to chart a somewhat unconventional course through Hollywood; he directed multiple episodes of USA’s Silk Stockings.
He also picked up a semi-regular gig on Seinfeld, appearing in three episodes as Cedric, half of a duo who menaced Michael Richards’ Kramer, most memorably by stealing a plot-pivotal armoire.
When Reubens brought Pee-wee back for a 2010 revival, Paragon and Jambi were with him, appearing in both the LA and Broadway runs of The Pee-wee Herman Show.
Paragon’s most recent gig was at Disney, where he was reportedly working as an Imagineer developing ideas for improv routines used by performers as the company’s theme parks.
Paragon died in April of this year, but his death only just became widely known. No cause of death is known.
John Paragon was 66.
“Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney ho!”
(via AV Club)