by Scott David, posted 01.18.10
5 / 5 stars
Editor’s Note: There’s some fantastic timing with this particular Quirky Queue review, and Scott didn’t even mention it: The original, live Pee-Wee Herman Show has officially returned, playing at Club Nokia at the LA Live complex, through February 7, 2010. If you’ve gone to the show, please let us know! On to the review.
:: It’s been a while since Paul Reubens whipped out his johnson at that movie house in Florida, so it should be okay to start appreciating his work again. After all, it was a porn theater. What do you think the other men sitting there were doing?
So, from the realm of the forgotten comes The Pee-Wee Herman Show. No, not the critically acclaimed Saturday morning show, but a nightclub act he did way back in 1981, which was recorded by HBO. After a few small movie roles, Reubens joined forces with some great up-and-coming performers to create an hilarious stage show spoofing children’s television of the 1950s. Sure, he would later play it straight for the kids, but this was the original inspiration: no holds barred and definitely adult.
Shot in front of a live audience at Los Angeles’ Roxy Theater, Pee-wee Herman hosts from his playhouse where the laughs are rapid-fire. The show’s infrequently appearing plot is simple: In an effort to be charitable and good-hearted, Pee-Wee gives up his one wish to his best friend. This becomes a source of frustration and jealousy for Pee-wee.
But that doesn’t matter. The real joy and genius of the show comes from the interaction of the cast. Throughout the show, Pee-wee is visited by a wide range of hysterical characters including the crusty Captain Karl (the late, great Phil Hartman, left) and Hermit Hattie (Edie McClurg). You’ll get to meet Mailman Mike, who enjoys reading and stealing others’ mail, Jambi the genie (a disembodied head in a box), and Miss Yvonne, the most beautiful woman in the land, who doesn’t need a purse since she is able to keep everything she needs down the front of her dress.
Personal favorite scenes include hypnotism with hand puppet Dr. Mondo, and a viewing of an actual 1960s children’s film about good lunchroom etiquette.
This one-hour special is filled with high energy from a great live cast, and is the genesis of many of Pee-wee’s now-popular comedic bits, including his odd voices and his “Tequila” dance.The Pee-Wee Herman Show is playfully silly and morally skewed, making it a shining addition to the many parodies of the unattainable ethical standards of 50s American television.
You probably loved Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. You may have even grown up watching his Saturday morning show. So give Paul a break and yourself a treat: Netflix The Pee-Wee Herman Show from 1981. You won’t be disappointed. If you are, I recommend purchasing a sense of humor next.