John Paragon, an actor, director, and writer best known for his disembodied, teal role of Jambi the Genie in Paul Reubens’ Pee-wee’s Playhouse, died on April 3 in Palm Springs of unknown reasons. He was 66.
The recently published death of Paragon has been confirmed by the Riverside County medical examiner to ..
In addition to his work with frequent collaborator Reubens – he also voiced Pterri the Pterodactyl on Playhouse – Paragon is remembered by Seinfeld fans as Cedric, the half of the couple Bob and Cedric who appeared on occasion to intimidate Michael Ricards’ Kramer. In the famous episode “The Soup Nazi”, Paragon and actor Yul Vazquez as Bob stole a closet that Kramer was guarding for Elaine (Julia-Louis Dreyfus).
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Paragon, like Reuben, was a member of the Los Angeles comedy troupe Groundlings and contributed to the writing of early stage appearances with the character Pee-wee Herman. The Jambi character was transferred from the stage act to the CBS Saturday morning playhouse, albeit in a much toned-down, child-friendly representation. The character was best known for his catchphrase, the magical incantation “Mecca lecca hi, mecca heney ho!”
Paragon, born in Alaska, also wrote and directed many episodes of the 1986-90 series.
Another successful colleague provided Paragon with the background of his groundlings: Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson. Paragon wrote the film Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988) and wrote and produced various Elvira TV projects. He also spoke the “Breather” off-screen, who demonized Elvira.
As an actor, Paragon has appeared in films such as Eating Raoul (1982), Echo Park (1985), UHF (1989) and Honey, I Blew Up The Kid (1992), as well as in the television series Cheers, Sledge Hammer! , Night Stand and from 1995 to 1998 three episodes of Seinfeld (The Soup Nazi, The Sponge and The Puerto Rican Day).
His directorial work includes Silk Stalkings and Pacific Blue, among others.
On Broadway, Paragon reprized Jambi the Genie for Reubens’ The Pee-wee Herman Show in 2010.