‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse’ Ended 30 Years Ago: 8 Stars Who Appeared

Pee-wee's Playhouse Laurence Fishburne S. Epatha Merkerson Paul Reubens

Shhh… Pee-wee’s secret word is “anniversary.”

The exuberant CBS kids’ show Pee-wee’s Playhouse ended 30 years ago, capping off a five-season run on November 17, 1990. Paul Reubens’ bow-tied man-child wouldn’t be seen again for two decades. (The cult-favorite character came back in a big way, though, landing a 2011 HBO special and a 2016 Netflix film.)

With all the time that’s passed, you might not remember the big-name stars who joined Pee-wee, Chairry, Conky, Jambi, the Magic Screen and the rest of the Playhouse gang on the madcap ’80s-era series. Scroll down to check out some notable alums.

Laurence Fishburne

Fishburne, the Matrix franchise’s mysterious Morpheus and a current star of black-ish, played goofy Cowboy Curtis across 17 episodes.

S. Epatha Merkerson

Before she was Lt. Anita Van Buren on Law & Order, Merkerson was the perpetually bemused mail carrier, Reba.

Phil Hartman

The late Saturday Night Live and NewsRadio star helped Reubens develop the Pee-wee character during their time in the Los Angeles comedy troupe The Groundlings, and Hartman later appeared on the show as the unkempt Captain Carl.

Natasha Lyonne

Lyonne, whose later credits include Orange Is the New Black and Russian Doll, was a member of Season 1’s Playhouse Gang.

Alisan Porter

The Season 10 winner of The Voice — a former child star — was part of the Playhouse Gang in the series’ sophomore round.

Leslie Jordan

Best known for his scene-stealing guest spots on Will & Grace, Jordan took the role of a neighbor named Busby in a Season 5 episode.

Jimmy Smits

Smits, the NYPD Blue actor and Bluff City Law leading man, guest-starred in one episode as a repairman who fixes robot Conky.

Sandra Bernhard

Comedian/actor, Bernhard, (Pose) introduced the character of Picture Phone operator Rhonda in one episode.