Pee-Wee Herman .com


Pee-wee Herman is a comic fictional character created and portrayed by American comedian Paul Reubens. He is best known for his two television series and film series during the 1980s. Herman's juvenile character developed as a stage act that quickly led to an HBO special in 1981. As the stage performance gained further popularity, Herman made a motion picture called Pee-Wee's Big Adventure in 1985, toning down the adult innuendo for the appeal of children. This paved the way for Pee-Wee's Playhouse, an Emmy Award-winning children's series that ran on CBS from 1986-1991. Another film, Big Top Pee-Wee, was released in 1988.

But how did this whirlwind of wild wackiness start out? To discover that, we must go back to the 1970s, when fledgling actor Reubens joined The Groundlings, a well known Los Angeles-based improvisational comedy team, and remained a member for six years. While there he worked with performers including Bob McClurg, John Paragon, Susan Barnes, and Phil Hartman. Hartman and Reubens became friends, often writing and working on material together. Reubens wrote sketches and developed his improvisational skills. He also forged a significant friendship and working relationship with Hartman, with whom he developed the character of Herman.

In 1977, The Groundlings staged a performance in which its members created characters that one might see in a comedy club. Reubens decided to play a guy that everyone immediately knew would never make it as a comic, partly because Reubens couldn't remember jokes in real life - he had trouble remembering punch lines and couldn't properly piece information in sequential order. Saying that Pee-wee Herman was born that night, his distinctive guttural "Ha Ha," followed by a low "Heh-heh-heh" laugh became the character's catch phrase, as has his insult comeback "I know you are, but what am I?"

Herman's signature gray glen plaid suit was originally a custom-made suit that Reubens had borrowed from the Groundlings director, Gary Austin; the small red bow tie was given to him by an acquaintance. Herman's later checkered clothing and persona were largely lifted from manic 1950s children's TV host Pinky Lee. Also incorporated into the look were short black hair, pale skin with red rouge, and red lipstick.

The inspiration for the name came from a Pee-weiny Herman brand miniature harmonica, and the surname of an energetic boy Reubens knew from his youth. Reubens thought the name "Pee-wee Herman" was a name that sounded too real to be made up, and like a real name a parent would give a child that they didn't really care about.

Throughout his film and television programs, Herman's background has remained relatively ambiguous. During interviews, he has been portrayed as though he is a real life stand-up comedian, who expanded his career by playing himself in his films and TV series. This is echoed by the fact that a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame was awarded to one mister "Pee-wee Herman," rather than an actor named Paul Reubens. In both Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and the Pee-Wee's Playhouse TV series, the character surrounds himself with strange inventions and decorations and has no visible means of support, whereas Big Top Pee-Wee depicts him as a farmer/inventor.

During a June 1984 segment on Late Night With David Letterman, Herman said that he has a sister named Hermione (who was a girl scout), his mother's name is Honey Herman, and his father's name is Herman Herman. He went on to say that everyone in his family has a first name that begins with an "H" except for him. This was stated again during a 1988 special which elaborated that Herman was raised in Florida.

Herman is commonly portrayed like an impatient and fun-loving tweener with overly delicate mannerisms and quirky facial expressions. His age has never been explicitly stated, although, he once proclaimed during his play called The Pee-Wee Herman Show, "I'm the luckiest boy in the world." Letterman once said of the character, "What makes me that it has the external structure of a bratty little precocious kid, but you know it's being controlled by the incubus — the manifestation of evil itself."

While the character Herman is typically cheerful and flamboyant, it has indeed displayed an aggressive side, including his vicious pool battle with Francis in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. He also played vengeful tricks in the aforementioned film, and occasionally threw childish tantrums on Pee-Wee's Playhouse.

Reubens auditioned for Saturday Night Live for the 1980-1981 season, but wasn't accepted into the cast. Instead, he started a stage show with the Herman character, which made one of his first appearances in the 1980 film Cheech & Chong's Next Movie. He first plays a rude receptionist in the film, spewing obscenities at police and being arrested. The character is later introduced as Herman, approaching the stage just before disputing with the film's title characters again.

Shortly after the film, Reubens took Herman to the real stage. Originally, Reubens imbued Herman with a sexuality that was later toned down as the character made the transition from raucous night club to children's television (though innuendo was still apparent, particularly between the Cowboy Curtis and Miss Yvonne characters). The stage show was popularized by HBO when The Pee-Wee Herman Show aired in 1981.

The show featured the writing and acting of Groundlings alumni Phil Hartman and John Paragon, who would both reprise their characters on Pee-Wee's Playhouse. The Pee-Wee Herman Show played for five sellout months at The Roxy Theatre in L.A., whereupon HBO filmed it and aired it as a special on September 11, 1981.

Following the success of The Pee-Wee Herman Show, in the early and mid-1980s Reubens made several guest appearances on Late Night with David Letterman as Herman. These performances gave Herman an even bigger following than he had with his HBO special. In 1983, Herman traveled the United States with The Pee-Wee Herman Show on stage, making highly publicized stops at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis and Caroline's in New York City. Reubens also appeared as Herman on an episode of the popular television show Mork & Mindy in 1981. In 1984 Herman sold out New York City's Carnegie Hall. Reubens stated that it was his appearances on Letterman's show that made his alter ego Herman a star.

Regarding his first starring role, Reubens was on a Warner Bros. set when he noticed that most of the people there rode around on bicycles, and asked when he would get his. Warner Bros. presented him with a refurbished 1940s Schwinn. Bingo! Reubens quickly abandoned the premise of the Herman script he was writing, in favor of one about Herman's love for his bike and his efforts to locate it once it was stolen.

Hartman, Reubens, and Michael Varhol co-wrote the script for Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, which would be directed by a young Tim Burton and scored by musician Danny Elfman of Oingo Boingo fame. It was released August 9, 1985 and, while receiving mixed reviews, performed well at the box office and went on to become a cult film. Reubens was the originator of the "Pee-wee dance" done in the movie, which he does to the song Tequila, and he had performed it publicly many times prior to making the film.

Herman hosted the 198th episode of Saturday Night Live on November 23, 1985. Phil Hartman, who would become an SNL cast member the following year, was credited for writing the "Pee-Wee Herman Thanksgiving Special" sketch and appeared as a pilgrim in it.

The following year, Herman (along with Hartman) found a home on the small screen with the Saturday morning children's program, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, on CBS for the next five years (Shirley Stoler, Johann Carlo, Gilbert Lewis, and Roland Rodriguez only appeared for the first 13 episodes before their characters were dropped). In the case of Lewis, he was fired, and a new actor, William Marshall, was hired to play the King of Cartoons. The show starred Herman living in his wild and wacky Playhouse, full of talking chairs, animals, robots, and other puppet and human characters. The show became a hit, and during its time on the air, Pee-Wee's Playhouse garnered 22 Emmy Awards.

Herman also became the first guest on The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers on its October 9, 1986 premiere. The following year, he made a cameo appearance in the film Back To The Beach. Reubens also filmed an insert for Sesame Street as Herman, reciting his own version of the alphabet. In 1988, a sequel to Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was filmed, entitled Big Top Pee-wee.

That same year Herman was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and starred in a Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special. The program included various celebrity guests, including Oprah Winfrey, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Little Richard, and the aforementioned Joan Rivers, among others.

During the filming of Mystery Men, Reubens appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 1999 in one of his very first interviews not as Herman. It was also on that interview that Reubens first announced plans to start writing a new Herman movie.

In a 2004 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Reubens also mentioned his hope that Hollywood has not seen the last Pee-wee. Reubens later stated a strong possibility of a Pee-Wee's Playhouse movie on an NPR interview with Terry Gross on December 27, 2004. A third Pee-wee movie was also suggested. Both, said Reubens, are actively being worked on, but no dates or official announcements were made as of this date.

In 1998, Fox Family aired reruns of Pee-wee's Playhouse. On July 10, 2006, Cartoon Network began airing Pee-wee’s Playhouse during its Adult Swim lineup. The show's 45 original episodes were planned to air on the block Monday to Thursday at 11 P.M. ET starting on that date. Later on in August 2006, Adult Swim started airing Pee-Wee's Playhouse at 12:00 A.M. ET. In October 2006, Reubens made a public appearance, dressed as Pee-Wee at Chiller Theatre Expo, an east-coast fan convention, with Pee-Wee's Playhouse co-star, Lynne Marie Stewart. There he signed pictures and other memorabilia, and posed for photographs with fans.

At Spike TV's 2007 Guys' Choice Awards in June, Reubens appeared as the Pee-wee Herman character for the first time since 1992.[1] On August 5, 2007 at a showing of Pee-wee's Big Adventure in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Reubens made an appearance on stage before the show, bringing with him almost the entire cast of the film to the uproarious applause and standing ovation. E.G. Daily (Dotty), Judd Omen (Mickey), Diane Salinger (Simone), Daryl Keith Roach (Chuck, the bike shop owner), and Mark Holton (Francis) were all present.

Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Movie is a proposed film allegedly greenlighted by Paramount Pictures. Reubens' third scripted movie, written at the same time as his adult-oriented Pee-wee script, was announced in late summer 2006. He first announced he had finished the script on Late Show with David Letterman, and later revealed further details to Time magazine reporter Dennis Van Tine. Filming was expected to start in early 2007. According to the Internet Movie Data base (IMDb), due to delays it is set for a 2011 release.

According to Reubens, the story will focus on the characters from the television show finally leaving the playhouse and venturing off into Puppetland and beyond (the playhouse characters had rarely left their home in the TV series). The characters from the playhouse will be on an epic adventure to look for a missing character from the playhouse. Reubens stated this will be a "road" movie similar to Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

Reubens has said that, although he feels confident that he can still portray Herman himself, he would optionally cast Johnny Depp if needed. He even claims that he has spoken to Depp himself, who asked for time to think about it. Remember, there are some solid ties there, since Reubens' favorite director Burton has also cast Depp in several of his movies.

Years before working on his Playhouse movie script, Reubens had written a script for "the dark Pee-wee film," but "not really very dark," entitled The Pee-wee Herman Story. At a Groundlings reunion in 1999, Reubens even joked about the rating of the movie being "probably PG-13 or even R" but in a 2007 MTV interview stated that this isn't actually true. He called it a "Valley of the Dolls Pee-Wee" because "it has things certainly inspired by, if not outright lifted from, that movie."

Reubens described the film's plot to MTV: "It's basically the story of Pee-wee Herman becoming famous as a singer. He has a hit single and gets brought out to Hollywood to make musical movies, kind of like they did with Elvis. It all kind of goes downhill from there for Pee-wee. He turns into a monster. He does everything wrong and becomes a big jerk."

It was because of the adult situations of this script that Reubens sat down and starting writing the Playhouse movie script. At first, Reubens was going to do the adult Pee-wee movie first, but within a few months, Reubens announced that it was very likely that the Playhouse movie would be made first. A third idea came about to make a reality-based Pee-wee film like those in the 1980s. In 2010, Reubens announced he is working on making this version with Judd Apatow, who wrote and directed the films Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

In late 2009, Reubens began promoting his new live stage show. He appeared in character as Pee-wee on late night programs including Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Jay Leno Show, and The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. Herman would also return for a cameo on the penultimate episode of Tonight with Conan O'Brien as host, and during O'Brien's stop at Radio City Music Hall in New York City for The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour.

Original plans for a November 2009 stage debut were scrapped when demand for tickets prompted a move to a larger theater. The Pee-Wee Herman Stage Show: The Return began on January 12, 2010 at Club Nokia in a limited four-week schedule. Much like the original stage show, the new production revolves around Herman's desire to fly. It boasts 11 actors, 20 puppets, and marks the show's first production since 1982. The show has employed many of the same set artists and the musical composer from the original Herman stage show, as well as some of the original cast members, including Lynne Stewart as Miss Yvonne, John Moody as Mailman Mike, and John Paragon as Jambi the Genie.

Reubens cited his desire to make a film version of Pee-Wee's Playhouse as reasoning for the show and expressed a desire to "introduce Pee-wee to the new generation that didn't know about it." The 2010 Herman stage show has received positive reviews from various Los Angeles-based publications, including The Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times and The Hollywood Reporter.

Reubens confirmed in a January 2009 interview with Swindle magazine that there are indeed negotiations under way for the Herman stage show to return. The show opened January 12, 2010 at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, California, and will move to Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre starting November 11, 2010. Do NOT miss it!

Pee-Wee's Proudest:

"Untitled Pee-Wee-Herman Movie" (In production) (2011)
Blow (2001)
Mystery Men (1999)
Matilda (1996)
Dunston Checks In (1996)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) (voice)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Series) (1992)
Batman Returns (1992)
Pee-Wee's Playhouse (TV series) (1986-1990)
Big Top Pee-Wee (1988)
Back To The Beach (1987) (Cameo)
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
Meatballs 2 (1984)
Pandemonium (1982)
Nice Dreams (1981)
Cheech & Chong's Next Movie (1980)
The Blues Brothers (1980)

Relevant Reading:

Travels With Pee-Wee
By Janette, Et Al, Phtgrs Beckman (1989)

Pee-Wee Herman On The Internet Movie Data Base
Link To 2010 Broadway Play (The Pee-wee Herman Stage Show: The Return)
Pee-Wee Interview All About His New Play!
Pee-Wee's "Official" Site

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