John Paragon, who played Jambi the Genie in the beloved 1980s children’s sitcom Pee-wee’s Playhouse, has died at the age of 66. According to Riverside County Coroner, Paragon died ‘back in April’ and that the cause of death is still unclear.
John Paragon got his start in the Los Angeles-based improvisation group The Groundlings alongside Paul Reubens and Phil Hartman. He then played the part of Jambi the Genie on the children’s TV show Pee-wee’s Playhouse. John would appear dressed in blue makeup with a red and gold turban as he portrayed the sassy character. As well as the genie, John was also the voice of Pterri the Pterodactyl on the show.
He also wrote many of the episodes of the series and co-wrote Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special in 1988, for which they were nominated an Emmy Award for Best Writing in a Children’s Special.
John 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. He collaborated with fellow Groundling Cassandra Peterson on numerous Elvira projects, including the recurring role of The Breather, an annoying caller, for her first television series on KHJ-TV-Los Angeles.
After the news of his passing, The Groundlings Twitter account tweeted: “R.I.P John Paragon”.
R.I.P John Paragon https://t.co/cUo4jXMYPm
— The Groundlings (@groundlings) June 18, 2021
His most recent experience came as an idea man for Walt Disney Imagineering for improv performances at the Disney theme parks. Paragon returned to his performance as Jambi in the Broadway adaptation of The Pee-wee Herman stage show in 2010. John Paragon will be missed by many for his performance as Jambi The Genie and Pterri the Pterodactyl. His performances touched so many children’s hearts.