Pee Wee Herman, the bowtied icon beloved among children of all ages, pretty much vanished entirely–almost as instantly and tragically as his cherished cherry-red bicycle in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure–after he was humiliatingly arrested in 1991 at an X-rated movie theater for lewd conduct. While other scandalized celebrities managed to reclaim and rebuild their careers after being nabbed for much lewder conduct (Hugh Grant, Eddie Murphy, Rob Lowe, R. Kelly, George Michael, et al), because Pee Wee was a kiddy TV star–never mind that his humor was always snarkily, subversively aimed at adults as well–his particular disgrace led to the toppling of his Technicolor empire and the shuttering of his Pee Wee’s Playhouse for good.
Or so I thought…
Yes, just like Pee Wee longed for his bike’s return in his famous flick, I have been pining for his comeback ever since ’91. And now in 2010, Pee Wee–the loner, the rebel–is finally back, relaunching his Pee Wee Herman Show for a limited run at L.A.’s Club Nokia. And while there are still things about Pee Wee Herman I couldn’t understand, things I shouldn’t understand, I do know this: I loved the premiere of his revival revue so much, I should marry it.
Although Paul Reubens resurfaced in the ’90s and 2000s in a series of non-Pee Wee roles in “serious” films and TV shows (Blow, Batman Returns, Murphy Brown, Dirt, Pushing Daisies), I still always missed his Pee Wee persona from more innocent times–along with Pterri, Chairry, Clocky, Conky, Globey, Magic Screen, and all his other wacky Puppetland pals whom I so gleefully invited into my living room every Saturday morning from 1986 to 1990. So to see Pee Wee back in his too-tight suit and white wingtips, romping about his fondly familiar acid-pastel Playhouse surrounded by all these old TV friends, practically had me “Tequila”-dancing for joy in the Club Nokia balcony.
Some of the original creators of these roles were even onstage, like Lynne Marie Stewart as Miss Yvonne, John Moody as Mailman Mike, and John Paragon as Jambi–although presumably the original Cowboy Curtis actor, Laurence Fishburne, was otherwise engaged. No worries. I still managed to get a couple photos of myself (with fellow Pee Wee-loving pop-culture obsessives Michelle Collins of Best Week Ever, Matt Whitfield of Yahoo! OMG, and Ben Mandelker of B-Side Blog) with the original Jambi after the show–possibly one of the finest and most head-exploding moments of my journalistic career/overall existence, and the fulfillment of a lifelong genie wish. Mekka lekka hi mekka hiney ho, indeed.
But of course the evening was all about P.W. (who received a much-deserved standing ovation at the end of the night), still awesomely ageless in every way. Besides looking exactly like the bowtie-bedecked boy wonder he was when he rode off into the sunset with Dottie back in 1985, his brilliantly bonkers skits–culled from classic moments from his Big Adventure movie, Playhouse U.S. TV series, and original ’80s comedy act at Hollywood’s Roxy club–were as dorkily delightful as ever. And his nostalgic shtick was even modernized by some amusing millennial references to Bump-Its, Sham-Wow (including an instant-classic new character: a Sham-Wow puppet!), Bedazzlers, abstinence rings, gay marriage, Paris Hilton, Twitter, cougars, Bud Light, and Viagra.
But none of those phrases were the all-important Secret Word, mind you. I won’t spoil the surprise (to do so would be a move only Mr. Bungle would attempt!), so to find out that out, you’ll just have to go on a Big Adventure-esque journey to Los Angeles to witness the show yourself. The Pee Wee Herman Show runs at Club Nokia in downtown L.A. through February 7.