Pee-wee’s Big Holiday

How long is America’s memory? About 25 years, according to the Pee-wee Herman comeback.

peeweehermanIt was 1991 when Paul Reubens, the man behind the tiny red bowtie and obnoxious laugh who streamed his playhouse antics directly into your family room to mesmerized kids, was arrested for masturbating in an “adult movie theatre.” His arrest was widely covered, Reubens terribly ridiculed, even when wholesome famous friends like Bill Cosby spoke up on his behalf, saying “Whatever (Reubens has) done, this is being blown all out of paulreubensmugshotproportion” (I guess he was hoping people would remember this sentiment when it came turn for his own shit to hit the fan).

At any rate, Reubens retired the child-like character that had entertained and confused Americans for the better part of a decade, but Pee-wee Herman never died, he only went underground, and now like a groundhog heralding spring, his little rose-cheeked head has popped up in 2016, ushering in a new era of what’s appropriate for a host of children’s television. He’s been testing the waters for a decade, appearing at fan conventions, guest judging on Top Chef, and even SNL-Digital-Shortdoing a skit on SNL. Since nobody showed up to burn him on a stake, it seemed the way was clear for Netflix to greenlight a movie he’d been waiting a quarter century to make.

You may not know that the Pee-wee Herman character has been around since the late 1970s. Paul Reubens was performing for The Groundlings, only he wasn’t a typical comedian, having no talent for remembering the proper sequence of jokes, or even punch lines. So he and fellow Groundling Philpeeweephilhartman Hartman created the anti-comic character, a weird, manic, effeminate,ambiguous “boy” who got by on enthusiasm and catchphrases like “I know you are but what am I?” Pee-wee Herman was born, but was initially aimed at adults, appearing on The Dating Game, and in a Cheech and Chong movie. Eventually Reubens toned down the peeweelaurencefishburneinnuendo and became a childhood icon (although you only have to look as far as Cowboy Curtis, played by a young Laurence Fishburne, to know it was still there).

So now Pee-wee Herman’s back, bitches, and we’ve got Judd Apatow to thank for it. Hollywood has been milking the 80s nostalgia cow an awful lot lately, and Paul Reubens was of course anxious to re-write his beloved character’s ending. But what’s in it for Apatow? Apparently a little peeweewish-fulfillment. A longtime Pee-wee fan, this was a film he thought people wanted to see. “I just think there are very few characters in comedy history as strong and hilarious as Pee-wee Herman. The first moment you’re sitting in a room with Paul Reubens and he starts pitching you things Pee-wee might say or do, you think to yourself, ‘This can’t be happening.’ The first time he put on the suit, I thought I was going to pass out.”

So Judd Apatow and Pee-wee Herman have $30 million dollars from Netflix to make a movie, and who do they call? Joe Manganiello, that’s who. It turns out, Magic Mike is Joe’s serious oeuvre, so get that straight in your head. Because when he’s between such serious roles, he’s available to be Pee-wee’s sidekick. Bet you never thought you’d live to see that. The plot of peeweejoePee-wee’s Big Holiday, which is nearly plotless, is this: Pee-wee has never left the small town he lives in, but one day a big, handsome movie star named Joe Manganiello drives through town on his sexy hog and the two hit it off as only two rootbeer-barrel-loving-boys can. Joe invites Pee-wee to his birthday party in NYC, and Pee-wee embarks on an epic adventure across the country. Or something like that.

This new adventure doesn’t have much to do with his other forays on the big screen or small screen, but if you’re a fan who’s been waiting for this moment for most of your life, there’s enough there to leave you satisfied. In fact, peeweeReubens, now 63, hardly looks as though he’s aged a day underneath the familiar pancake makeup. Pee-wee’s Big Holiday isn’t likely to win any new converts though. It’s a silly little thing, a very small fluff on some pretty major wind, but yes: it is in fact a movie. And you can watch it now on Netflix.


25 thoughts on “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday

  1. Carrie Rubin

    Not sure if I’ll watch this or not, but I realized Paul Reubens must be making a comeback when I saw him on The Blacklist last year. There I was, watching James Spader do his thing, only to see this weird guy come on the screen. “Is that Pee-wee Herman?” I asked myself. Why yes, yes it is. Of course, his character wasn’t Pee-wee Herman in The Blacklist, but once a Pee-wee, always a Pee-wee.


  2. In My Cluttered Attic

    When it comes to Pee-wee Herman offers some diverting entertainment for young ones. As for Paul Reubens, he didn’t really hurt anyone but himself and paid for it. If he can get on with his life and be successful, more power to him.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. tubularsock

      Well Tubularsock has to agree. Tubularsock never really followed PH as a character but when Reubens was arrested my thoughts went to what in the hell is police time being used to “capture”
      masturbaters? Who really gives a shit? And like you said, “he only hurt himself”!


      1. In My Cluttered Attic

        You make an interesting point, Tubularsock. I understand that masturbating in a public place is probably not the smartest thing to do, but it was my understanding that he was watching a porn film in an theater know for X rated movies. Though, that’s not an excuse for masturbating in a public place, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that something like that could happen in a theater like that. Reubens paid even more of a price, though,because he was the host of a popular Saturday morning kids show. Still, the police called to an X-rated theater?


  3. Liz A.

    I never really “got” Pee-wee. I was just a bit too young when he started out, and I was a bit too old for the Playhouse show. And the movies… Yeah, not my thing.


  4. Christopher

    I have mixed feelings about his comeback. I thought he got unfairly ridiculed and sent to the principle’s office for the theater incident, but in another biography of him I’ve seen former Groundlings members kept saying that Pee Wee was just one of many hilarious characters Reubens created. And yet we’ve never seen them. Is he giving the people what they want or is he just a one-trick pony?
    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Even if he is his one trick has brought a lot of joy.


  5. Teena in Toronto (@TeenainToronto)

    I’m a huge fan of PeeWee Herman and am looking forward to seeing this. Alas, I don’t have Netflix.

    “I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.”

    “There’s a lotta things about me you don’t know anything about, Dottie. Things you wouldn’t understand. Things you couldn’t understand. Things you shouldn’t understand.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sarca

    I saw Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure in the theatre when I was a kid. I wasn’t really that familiar (never really watched the tv show), and he certainly confused and fascinated me. Creeped me out a little too. It was a little unsettling watching a grown man who acted like a child, who seemed to have enough money for a house and trinkets, and in acting this way, gets the interest of a young woman…Bizarre. I have to say I did enjoy that film, though.
    Like you say, it’s hard to ignore all his legal troubles, which totally kills the man/child allure. I’m on the fence whether I’ll tune into this one.


  7. Colane Conundrum

    I thought it was all right … but it did seem to lack the “spark” that the earlier movies had. I’m not sure why. The jokes were there, and I thought overall, the film was very well-done. Just some things were off. Pee-Wee didn’t exactly sound like Pee-Wee. Even though Reubens hasn’t appeared to age, his voice definitely has.

    I felt the same way when I watched the “Dumb and Dumber” sequel. It was funny, yeah — but not great. I guess you can never truly recapture something from a previous era, no matter how diligently you try.

    Not to say that this film as bad, because it’s not. It’s very enjoyable, especially from a nostalgic perspective. But like many replays from the past, it just makes me want to watch the original.



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