See Miss Yvonne From "Pee-wee's Playhouse" Now at 75
Lynne Marie Stewart is also famous for a funny role in long-running comedy series.
It was one of the weirdest pop culture phenomena of the '80s, and Lynne Marie Stewart was part of it from the very beginning. By 1980, the actor and comedian was a member of the legendary Los Angeles comedy troupe the Groundlings, had played three different nurses on M*A*S*H, and landed a small role in American Graffiti alongside her childhood friend Richard Dreyfuss. But when she was cast as the glamorous, beehive-haired Miss Yvonne in a strange comedy show being developed by a young actor named Paul Reubens, her life changed. A manic parody of '50s children's television, The Pee-wee Herman Show became an improv comedy sensation in L.A. and was later adapted into an HBO comedy special, a feature film (the first from director Tim Burton), and a massively popular children's TV series called Pee-wee's Playhouse that ran from 1986 to 1990.
Stewart's Miss Yvonne—the flirty friend of energetic man-child Pee-wee Herman and a frequent visitor to his wacky abode—was there for (almost) all of it. Over the course of 30 years, Stewart played "the most beautiful woman in Puppetland" in small comedy clubs, on the small screen, and even on Broadway. (Though she appeared in Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Miss Yvonne did not). But her career didn't begin (or end) with that signature hairdo. Read on to discover how Lynne Marie Stewart managed to spin her signature role into a long acting career and what she's doing today.
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Stewart grew up with lots of fellow future stars.
Born in California in 1946, Stewart was in the middle of the action from a young age. She grew up in Beverly Hills, where her father worked as a lawyer, and attended Horace Mann Grammar School and Beverly Hills High with Albert Brooks and her future co-star Richard Dreyfuss. She and Dreyfuss were more than acquaintances—they were close friends, appearing in school plays and studying improv together. At one point when they were children, Stewart shared in a 2018 interview, he even proposed to her! (Her mom told her she had to say no, because she wasn't Jewish.)
After high school, she went to L.A. City College, where she met and befriended Cindy Williams, the future Shirley Feeney of both Happy Days and the spinoff Laverne & Shirley. The actors both went on to appear in George Lucas's 1973 film American Graffiti. Throughout the '70s, Stewart appeared in other minor film roles, as well as episodes of M*A*S*H, Alice, and Hawaii Five-O. But her real future lay in comedy.
She was with Pee-wee from the very beginning.
A year or so after the release of American Graffiti, Stewart joined the Groundlings, the L.A.-based improv company that launched the careers of comedy legends from Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig to Julia Sweeney and Jon Lovitz. It's where she met Reubens, who, in 1977, created the character of Pee-wee Herman, a childlike man in a suit and bow-tie who would go on to become an icon. Stewart and other members of the troupe, including Phil Hartman and Edie McClurg, developed their own characters to serve as backup to Pee-wee. Inspired by Sandra Dee and Marilyn Monroe, Stewart came up with the perky persona (and signature '60s style) of Miss Yvonne. She gained a wider audience when the comedy show was recorded for an HBO special in 1981. Her involvement with Pee-wee—and the Groundlings in general—would shape the rest of her long career in film and TV.
"Most of my life and my career can be traced down to the Groundlings," Stewart told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013. With that in mind, it's no surprise that she's returned to the Groundlings stage over the years, including for the 40th anniversary celebration pictured above. (That's fellow actor and comedian Mindy Sterling on the right.)
But she had plenty of other jobs, as well.
Around the time Pee-wee's Playhouse was on the air, Stewart was busy with a lot more than Miss Yvonne. She appeared in many TV shows, including on Laverne & Shirley alongside her friend Williams, and in movies as varied as The Running Man, Jumpin' Jack Flash, Summer School, and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. She also lent her voice to the cartoon series A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and had a voice-only role in the Oscar-winning film Rain Man.
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Her career hasn't slowed down.
For the past 30 years, Stewart has kept extremely busy working as an actor, racking up more than 90 credits. On television, she's appeared in episodes of Herman's Head, Dream On, Suddenly Susan, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Arrested Development. Harkening back to her M*A*S*H days, she even played a nurse on a 2005 episode of Grey's Anatomy. But she's probably most often recognized these days for her recurring role (spanning more than a decade!) as the mother of unhinged janitor Charlie (Charlie Day) on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (pictured above).
Throughout the '90s, she appeared on the big screen in a few films, including Clear and Present Danger and Dunston Checks In. Her most high-profile turn in film was playing the mother of fellow Groundlings-alum Maya Rudolph in the smash hit comedy Bridesmaids in 2011.
On stage, Stewart was, of course, a part of the 2011 Broadway revival of The Pee-wee Herman Show.
She stays tied to her most famous roles.
Even in her mid-70s, Stewart has kept busy in recent years. She's still landing roles on TV, including in the sitcom Two Broke Girls and the sketch comedy series Comedy Bang! Bang!. She's a regular on the comedy podcast The Pack and appeared in a Funny or Die sketch with the late Fred Willard, but she's never quite been able to leave her most iconic characters behind. She still appears regularly at annual car shows celebrating American Graffiti, and played Jimmy—not Miss Yvonne—in the 2016 Netflix special Pee-wee's Big Holiday.