A new movie featuring the Pee-wee Herman character was released on Netflix this week. This is kind of a surprise considering Pee-wee has been absent since Pee-wee’s Playhouse went off the air in 1991. That was 25 years ago. That’s quite awhile we have been without Pee-wee. I’m glad we have him back.
You’re most likely to remember the character from 1985’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. It was far better than its sequel Big Top Pee-wee and the TV series Pee-wee’s Playhouse was completely different as a children’s show. If you’re unfamiliar with Pee-wee, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is what you should watch.
While the movie is what made him famous, the character of Pee-wee Herman had been making appearances since the late 70’s. Comedian Paul Reubens, the actor behind Pee-wee, created the character with his friend and fellow Groundlings member Phil Hartman. That Phil Hartman. You may remember him from such TV series as Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, and Newsradio. Reubens and Hartman would go on to create a stag show featuring Pee-wee and a special was made for HBO in 1981. After the success of the stage show, they would start working on a screenplay for a Pee-wee movie.
They needed a director for their movie though. They found a young Disney animator, looking to direct his first studio movie, by the name of Tim Burton. Yes, Pee-wee Herman launched the career of one the most famous directors of all time. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure would be the high point for Pee-wee and by 1990 Reubens stopped appearing as the character. A 1991 arrest for masturbating in an adult theater didn’t help either.
Reubens never abandoned Pee-wee and always planned to bring him back, when the time was right. He revived the stage show in 2010 and started making appearances as Pee-wee, including a memorable appearance with Andy Samberg on SNL. Later that year it was announced that a new film was in the works with Judd Apatow producing.
This led to the new movie, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, just released on Netflix. The movie was co written by Netflix veteran (of one month) Paul Rust. Rust stars in and writes for the Netflix series Love, also produced by Apatow, which was just released in February. The big week continues for Reuben, as he is set to appear in the TV series Gotham this week as Oswald Cobblepot’s father, a role he played in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns as well.