John Paragon, an actor, director and writer best known for his disembodied and teal role of Jambi the Genius on Paul Reubens’ Pee-wee’s playhouse, died April 3 in Palm Springs of unknown causes. He was 66 years old.
Paragon’s recently publicized death was confirmed to Deadline by the Riverside County Coroner.
In addition to his work with frequent collaborator Reubens – he also voiced Pterri the Pterodactyl on Theater – Paragon is recalled by Seinfeld fans like Cedric, half of the Bob and Cedric couple who seemed to intimidate Michael Richards’ Kramer at times. In the famous episode “The Soup Nazi”, Paragon and actor Yul Vazquez, as Bob, stole a wardrobe that Kramer was keeping for Elaine (Julia-Louis Dreyfus).
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Paragon was, like Reubens, a member of the Los Angeles comedy troupe The Groundlings, and helped write early performances starring the character of Pee-wee Herman. Jambi’s character went from stage to CBS on Saturday morning Theater, although in a much more toned down and more child-friendly representation. The character was best known for his slogan, the magical mantra “Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney ho!”
Paragon, born in Alaska, also wrote and directed numerous episodes of the 1986-90 series.
Her background with Groundlings provided Paragon with another successful collaborator: Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson. Paragon wrote the movie Elvira: Mistress of Darkness (1988) and wrote and produced various Elvira TV projects. He also voiced the off-screen âBreatherâ that plagued Elvira.
As an actor, Paragon has made appearances in films such as Eat Raoul (1982), Echo Park (1985), UHF (1989) and Honey I blew the kid up (1992), as well as the television series Cheers, Sledge Hammer !, Nightstand and, from 1995 to 1998, three episodes of Seinfeld (“The Nazi Soup â,â The Sponge âandâ The Puerto Rican Day â).
His directing credits include Silk stalkers and Pacific Blue, among others.
On Broadway, Paragon took over Jambi the genius for Reubens’ The Pee-wee Herman Show in 2010.