Monday, July 26, 2010

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

25 years ago, a hilariously insane man-child met a (then) wunderkind director and together they created an 80's movie to which I connect far more than any John Hughes bagatelle (with one exception - and more on that, later), Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.

I was in probably still in high school when I discovered Paul Reubens' alter-ego, first as a bizarre stand-up comedian (in the late 70's and early 80's, there was no other kind) and then as part of his own HBO special : "Pee-Wee Herman: The Boy Who Wished He Could Fly," which featured Reubens' fellow Groundlings Phil Hartman, Edie McClurg and Laurence "Larry" Fishbourne.

"I know just what I'm going to do with these, first!" *

My sister and I immediately embraced Reubens' fascination with childhood silliness and adult-worthy nonsense for the sake of nonsense. It was probably in the late 70's, as part of an HBO "Young Comedians" that really sent us over the top. Pee-Wee was very much a prop comic (no, not like the bizarre and roided-up Carrottop) and his use of a 'hypnotic' hand puppet sent us into gales of hysterical laughter.

One of Reubens' earliest TV appearances was on the infamous Chuck Barris' " The Gong Show" as part of the singing duo "Suave and Debonair:"

Obviously, this was the origin of the "Big Shoe Dance:"

But Big Adventure includes so many iconic moments, that a single post couldn't mention them all without posting almost the entire movie. But here are a few:

"Oh really? Where are they hosin' him down?"

God, I love Jan Hooks. I actually went to the Alamo and asked the guide to see the basement. Her exceptionally sarcastic response: "Ha-ha! I've never been asked that before!" My response? "Can you say that with me? A-doh-bee." They almost threw me out.

"I've seen better heads on boils!"

And more than I can even recount: the Breakfast Machine; "I meant to do that;" the phone call to Dottie; the palm-reader; the road signs on wheels; the studio chase scene; Dee Snyder; Godzilla and Mothra; James Brolin and Morgan Fairchild; "Everyone's got a big but...;" the Evil Clown surgeons; "Merci blah-blah.." etc., etc., etc. Almost every set-piece and almost every single line is sublimely silly perfection.

I'll save "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" and Reubens' fall from grace for another post. But I will tell you that after a successful Los Angeles run, Paul Reubens is bringing his new Pee-Wee show to Broadway this fall, and I have every intention of seeing it.

*Jambi the Genie on receipt of his new hands.


More, anon.


Stephen said...

Oh, how I love Pee-Wee!!!
In the early 1990s, I started my Saturdays with The Playhouse. Brilliant, funny, wistful.
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure is a favorite of mine & it still holds up. I am glad that Mr.Reubens is still in the game, as Pee-Wee & doing other work.

I would love to see him on Broadway... maybe we need to make it a date?

Prospero said...

Sounds good to me, my friend!