May 29, 2014

[TV] The Pee-Wee Herman Show (HBO Special)

Since I went into a weird Pee-Wee bent, I decide to dig up a copy of his Los Angeles stage performance that was recorded by HBO. You see once upon a time, Pee-Wee Herman was a popular children's show television host. And yes, I totally grew up watching his antics, screaming when the secret word was "accidentally" mentioned by some character.

But before he delighted the minds and hearts of children, the Pee-Wee Herman character was part of a stand-up routine of sorts. And while the format was still that of a children's show, there was a lot more sexual innuendo. So yes, in case you're late for the trailers, Pee-Wee Herman began as a somewhat ironic character.

I didn't realize this particular HBO special existed and that copies of it were still floating around the internet as well. So yeah, one thing led to another and I found myself watching this crazy show one afternoon. And man, it was brilliant.

Synopsis: The Pee-We Herman Show began as stage show at the Groundlings Theater, then went on to the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles and finally Broadway. The concept was created Paul Reubens, who also plays the titular character. The lore states that the origins of this character are directly related to the fact that Reubens managed to get as far as being a finalist as a regular on Saturday Night Live, but that year Gilbert Gottfried was selected. And yet around that time he came up with the character and eventually came up with the show.

The show is done in the style of an old school children's show with the actual audience of the stage show being the audience of the TV show. Thus we get Pee-Wee (Paul Reubens) directly addressing the audience a lot and sort of hoping for a response. And this particular show is set in a fictional land called Puppetland which includes a bunch of crazy characters including dinosaurs, a talking globe and pretty much a talking everything.

The sort of "conflict" in this episode is Pee-Wee's desire to fly. Sure, it's actually pretty easy to accomplish this when one of the residents of the playhouse is a magical genie who lives in a box named Jambi (John Paragon). But then comes along Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart), who is also the most beautiful woman in Puppetland, and her biggest wish is to get Captain Carl (Phil Hartman) to like her. And thus he becomes a little torn in terms of what to do - give his wish away to Miss Yvonne or just keep it for himself.

The synopsis alone is hard to sell you on the humor of the show. And going through all the different jokes, sexual innuendos and double entendres with you would totally ruin things for you. It's really something you need to experience for yourself. And interestingly enough, the humor is rather timeless. And that's why the show is still worth watching even today.

To be fair, Pee-Wee is not for everyone. In the same way that folks can't quite get into Sponge Bob or Dora - they all feel like the sort of characters that you can only handle in very short doses. But I dunno, when you just buy into the character a bit and deal with your gag reflex maybe, he's pretty hilarious. And he has the odd power to mesmerize young audiences for hours at a time.

However this is not yet the same show that is going to entertain a generations of kids (including me). This show is raunchy, but in a witty way. It's dirty, but clever. And it has some pretty amazing puppets at the same time. And I'm a major sucker for puppets. And a of course a robot that also involves a boombox - an honest to dog boombox.

The Pee-Wee Herman Show was a lot more entertaining than I expected it to be, and I say this as someone who enjoyed the children's version of the show. And that's why I actually invested the time in writing about it - it's not perfect, but it's still a lot of fun. Thus the show gets 4 strange letters from kids that Pee-Wee reads in the show out of a possible 5.


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