John Paragon

John Dixon Paragon (December 9, 1954 – April 3, 2021) was an American actor, writer and director known for his work on the television series Pee-wee's Playhouse, where he portrayed Jambi the Genie[1] and voiced Pterri the Pterodactyl.[2] He was also a writer and director on a number of episodes.[3]

John Paragon
John Dixon Paragon

(1954-12-09)December 9, 1954
DiedApril 3, 2021(2021-04-03) (aged 66)
  • Actor
  • writer
  • director

Early lifeEdit

Paragon was born on December 9, 1954 in Anchorage, Alaska,[4] but grew up and attended schools in Fort Collins, Colorado. He graduated from Fort Collins High School.[5][6]


Paragon got his start in the Los Angeles-based improvisation group The Groundlings alongside Paul Reubens and Phil Hartman.

He played Jambi the Genie on the children's TV show Pee-wee's Playhouse. In addition to writing many of its regular-season episodes, he co-wrote (with Reubens) the Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special in 1988, for which they were nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Writing in a Children's Special.

His other roles include Cedric, one half of the couple Bob and Cedric on the television series Seinfeld; the title character in the children's movie The Frog Prince; the sex shop salesman in Eating Raoul; and the owner of a strip-o-gram business in the 1986 film Echo Park.

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.

He also made multiple appearances at Knott's Scary Farm with Elvira at the Good Time Theater. One of the show's highlights was when he walked amongst the audience as Ramone Azteca.

Paragon worked with Walt Disney Imagineering on ways to incorporate improvisational performance into attractions at Disney parks. In this capacity, he performed as the keeper of Lucky the Dinosaur during test runs of the animatronic figure.

He returned to his performance as Jambi the Genie in the Broadway outing of the Pee-wee Herman stage show that began performances at the Stephen Sondheim Theater on October 26, 2010.


Paragon died on April 3, 2021 at his home in Palm Springs, California, at the age of 66. His cause of death was heart disease and chronic alcoholism. News of his death was not made public until June 18 of that year.[2][6][7][8][9] He was cremated and his ashes were in the possession of Cassandra Peterson until they were interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on November 15, 2022.[10] His urn is "a perfectly crafted depiction" of the purple-and-gold Jambi the Genie box.[11]



Year Title Director Writer Actor Role Notes Ref(s)
1980 Cheech and Chong's Next Movie Yes Director
1982 Eating Raoul Yes Sex Shop Salesman
Pandemonium Yes Prisoner
Things Are Tough All Over Yes Red Carpet Man #1
Airplane II: The Sequel Yes Economy Flight Attendant
1983 Going Berserk Yes Rooster
1984 Uncensored Yes Various Direct-to-video film
1985 Pee-wee's Big Adventure Yes Movie Lot Actor
Get Out of My Room Yes Robert Walters Direct-to-video mockumentary
1986 Echo Park Yes Hugo
The Frog Prince Yes Ribbit / Prince of Freedly
1987 North Shore Yes Professor
1988 Elvira: Mistress of the Dark Yes Yes Gas Station Attendant
1989 UHF Yes Richard Fletcher
1992 Double Trouble Yes Yes FBI Agent [7]
Honey, I Blew Up the Kid Yes Lab Technician
Ring of the Musketeers Yes Yes Air Traffic Controller Manfred Wenzel
1994 Every Breath Yes Director
Twin Sitters Yes Yes Yes Loan officer [7]
1996 The Rich Man's Wife Yes Maitre D'
2001 Elvira's Haunted Hills Yes
2006 Red Riding Hood Yes Fisherman
2016 Pee-wee's Big Holiday Yes TV Cameraman

Also production consultant direct-to-video ThrillerVideo (1985).


Year Name Director Writer Actor Role Notes Ref(s)
1981 The Pee-wee Herman Show Yes Yes Jambi / Pterri (voice) Television film
1981–2011 Elvira's Movie Macabre Yes Yes Breather 6 episodes as actor; 1 episode as writer [7]
1982 Madame's Place Yes Holistic doctor 1 episode
1983 The Paragon of Comedy Yes Yes Various Television film
The 1/2 Hour Comedy Hour Yes Various
The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show Yes (voice)
1984 Last of the Great Survivors Yes Beef Television film
Cheeseball Presents Yes Yes Breather Television film
Welcome to the Fun Zone Yes Himself Television film
Elvira's MTV Halloween Party Yes Yes Breather Television film
1985 FTV Yes Various
1985–2011 Saturday Night Live Yes Yes Pterri (voice) 1 episode as actor, 1 episode as writer
1986 Leo & Liz in Beverly Hills Yes Raddichio 1 episode
1986–90 Pee-wee's Playhouse Yes Yes Yes Jambi / Pterri (voice) 41 episodes as actor; 25 episodes as writer;
20 episodes as director
1987 Cheers Yes Grif Palmer 1 episode
1988 Sledge Hammer! Yes Durward Monroe 1 episode
The Cheech Show Yes Television film
1991 On the Television Yes Various 1 episode
1992 Ring of the Musketeers Yes Yes Yes Air Traffic Controller Television film
1993 The Elvira Show Yes Yes Voice of 'Reinfield'
1995 Kirk Yes Ricky 1 episode
1995–96 Night Stand Yes Bachelor #3 / Dr. Ed Burns 5 episodes
1995–98 Seinfeld Yes Cedric 3 episodes [7]
1996 Renegade Yes 1 episode
1996–98 Silk Stalkings Yes 10 episodes [7]
1997 Pacific Blue Yes 1 episode
1999 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Yes Bokar Episode: "Prodigal Daughter"
Mega Babies Yes 2 episodes
2001 You Don't Know Jack Yes Also consultant
2011 The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway Yes Yes Jambi / Pterri (voice) Television film
2014 13 Nights of Elvira Yes Also producer and music supervisor


  1. ^ Barnes, Mike (July 18, 2013). "Shout! Factory Nabs 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' Distribution Rights". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Shafer, Ellise (June 18, 2021). "John Paragon, 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' Star, Dies at 66". Variety. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Gaines, Caseen (2011). Inside Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Untold, Unauthorized, and Unpredictable Story of a Pop Phenomenon. ECW Press. p. 212. ISBN 978-1550229981.
  4. ^ "John Paragon – Broadway Cast & Staff". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  5. ^ Udell, Erin (September 27, 2016). "Meet Jambi of Pee Wee's Playhouse fame in Fort Collins". Fort Collins Coloradoan. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Udell, Erin (June 21, 2021). "'Pee-wee's Playhouse' actor and Fort Collins High School grad John Paragon dead at 66". Fort Collins Coloradoan. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Hughes, William (June 18, 2021). "R.I.P. John Paragon, Pee-wee's Playhouse's Jambi the Genie". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  8. ^ Evans, Greg (June 18, 2021). "John Paragon Dies: Jambi The Genie Of 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' Was 66". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on June 18, 2021. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  9. ^ Sestito, Maria (June 18, 2021). "John Paragon, 'Elvira' writer and genie on 'Pee-wee's Playhouse,' died in Palm Springs home". The Desert Sun. Archived from the original on June 18, 2021. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  10. ^ "ELVIRA aka CASSANDRA PETERSON - WTF Happened to this Horror Celebrity?". YouTube.
  11. ^

External linksEdit