Friday, January 29, 2010

Pee Wee's Big Return

Paul Reubens is back as Pee Wee Herman - the nerd man-child who skyrocketed to 80s fame from a late-night cult "kiddie" stage show on The Sunset Strip to feature films. Paul created Pee Wee with the improv group The Groundlings (along with pals Lynn Stewart, John Paragon and Edie McClurg).

After Paul got cut in the audition process for SNL's 1980-81 cast (they chose Gilbert Gottfried instead), Paul scraped together some money from his parents and created his own showcase - a 1981 stage show homage to kiddie shows of the 50s called "The Pee Wee Herman Show". The stage show was a smash and Pee Wee started making talk show rounds with frequent appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman" (the non-curmudgeonly young Dave actually enjoyed Pee Wee - go check YOUTUBE).

Hollywood came calling with Paul directed by a newcomer named Tim Burton in Pee Wee's Big Adventure. The film had a modest budget and made a nice profit. CBS-TV then gave him a Saturday morning show (and an amazing Christmas Special) that harkened back to the original stage show "Puppetland" premise. Pee Wee's Playhouse was a smash with kids 8 to 80. Pee Wee starred in a second film (the bland Big Top Pee Wee) and appeared in a great cameo with Frankie & Annette in 1987's film Back to the Beach. He sang "Surfin' Bird".

In 1991, during a visit with his elderly parents in Florida, Paul was letting off some steam at a porno theater (ok, like who hasn't gone running from a visit with parents to a bar, brothel or bathhouse?). It wasn't his lucky day -- because he was part of a routine bust of patrons. A private yank in a darkened movie house got his TV show and toys yanked by corporate execs. Pee Wee was promptly given a "time-out".

Paul Reubens has continued to work in films and TV (BLOW, Murphy Brown, 30 Rock) and last summer decided he would bring back Pee Wee Herman into the post- celeb sex tape/intern oral sex in White House/infomercial/internet world. Within days, Ticketmaster was overloaded from the public eager to welcome him back without question.

30 years have passed since The Pee Wee Herman Show played at LA's Roxy (later taped for HBO special) and the stage show has been updated with TV show elements incorporated for a month long run of sold out shows at LA's Club Nokia. Paul Reubens who has been doing Q&A sessions with 'super fans' after the show tells them that, this time around, he and his cast of Pee Wee Show vets: Lynn 'Miss Yvonne' Stewart and John 'Jambi' Paragon are really feeling the LOVE from audiences.

It's a comeback that isn't without its ulterior motives...Paul Reubens hopes to get funding for two Pee Wee feature films that he's written (one a CGI fantasy spectacle about Puppetland and the kidnapping of The King of Cartoons; and the other as a Valley of The Dolls-type dark comedy about the lessons of fame). Paul (at age 57) has seen all sides of celebrity & fame and is even open to a younger actor of the Johnny Depp-ilk taking over the iconic Pee Wee role. The character, who refused to conform and grow up, just might be enjoying his childhood a little while longer.

Here is the MISTER BUNGLE educational film that Pee Wee showed in both the 1981/2010 stage shows - and is still getting laughs.


Lex10 said...

The man is a ghod

Eve said...

I remember an interview with Paul Reubens back in the '80s where he said he wanted to get back to acting and other characters, as "I don't want to be this creepy old guy in my 50s still doing Pee Wee, that would be pathetic."

Pantheon Zeus said...


yes, I think he was over playing the part by 1990 anyway...and needed a good decade or two away from the white shoes.

Now he seems to be enjoying the appreciation from a live crowd
and hoping a sale of a screenplay and rights to the character will bring a nice retirement nest egg.