Tag Archives: pee-wee herman

Scratchbomb Christmas Comedy Classics!

Around this time o’ year way back in 2009 and 2010, I did a series of posts under the banners of Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs, with at least one example of each for every day in December leading up to Christmas Day. I chickened out trying to do that again this year because I feared running low on material, but I think there are still some gems buried in the earlier posts that could do with some new exposure, if I do say so myself.

In that spirit, please enjoy any and all of these Holiday Horrors/Triumphs of years past, whether you’ve just been hipped to Scratchbomb or you want to reread these classics of yesteryear because they’re so awesome. Hubris!

Continue reading Scratchbomb Christmas Comedy Classics!

Holiday Triumphs: The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway

Continuing the fabled tradition begun all the way back in 2009, Scratchbomb presents Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs: an advent calendar of some of the more hideous aspects of this most stressful time of year–with a few bits of awesomeness sprinkled in.

peeweeshow.jpgNo one’s ever asked me for life advice because, I mean, c’mon. But if they did, I’d say this: Spend your money on experiences, not things.

Things break. Things fade. Things fail. But experiences can not be replaced and can not be taken from you. I’ve regretted purchases of things (more than I care to admit), but I’ve never been sorry I spent money on an experience. Even if the experience itself wasn’t what I expected, or fell short in some way, I can always take something instructive from it. And when an experience meets or exceeds your expectations, there’s nothing better. Whether it’s comedy or music or theater or a vacation, if you can afford the money and the time, do it.

Still, when I heard that Pee-Wee Herman was doing a Broadway show, I debated whether I should spend the dough. Broadway ain’t cheap, to the point where I had to really consider if the money would be worth it. What pushed me over the edge was 1) a number of friends/relatives who went and said it was great, and 2) The Baby.

As I wrote about not too long ago, The Baby loves Pee-Wee. One night earlier this year, for reasons I can’t remember, I thought she might like to watch Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, and I cued it up on Netflix Instant. She got as far as the bathtub fight with Francis and said “I don’t like this movie!” So I turned it off, cursing myself for showing it to her too soon, thinking I’d poisoned her against Pee-Wee forever. But the very next day, much to my surprise, she asked to watch it. This time, she sat all the way through and laughed like
crazy.

For the next month, she wanted to watch nothing but Pee-Wee. I showed her clips of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse on TV and she loved that, too. One of my brothers bought her the entire series on DVD for her birthday, and she’s been watching them incessantly. My cousin got her a Pee-Wee action figure from 1988 on eBay, still in the package. It killed me to open it up, but I did so anyway, and she hasn’t slept without it ever since.

So considering The Baby’s obsession with Pee-Wee, and considering that Paul Reubens has never done a Broadway show before and is unlikely to do one again, I bit the bullet and pulled the trigger on a pair of tickets for a Sunday matinee. I was fully aware that disaster was an option. After all, The Baby is only 4 years old, and it’s always possible she could have a meltdown in the theater, or have to go to the bathroom 800 times, or just be bored. But I’ve been on a winning streak of late (brag) and I counted on that streak to continue for this outing.

I didn’t tell The Baby about the show beforehand, because she has no concept of time and you can’t tell her you’re going to something in a day or a week or a month. If she hears about some upcoming event, she will assume–and demand–that said event start NOW. So all I told her was that we were going on a super special “mission” to The City. (She likes to pretend to be a spy when we go out. So do I.) The only clue she had was me suggesting she bring her Pee-Wee action figure along for the trip.

It was raining and intensely windy this day. All I had to protect us was an umbrella too big for her little hands but which she insisted on carrying anyway. As we walked up Seventh Avenue, the wind took a hold of her umbrella and blew it up the sidewalk at a furious pace. We ran after it, and only a stranger walking in the opposite direction saved it from flying out into traffic.

I wanted to take her to a diner off of Times Square I’d always gone to with my dad, but the weather meant walking around for too long was a really bad idea. So I decided we’d just get lunch at the Heartland Brewery across the street from the theater. We scurried down the block and hid under the restaurant’s awning, shaking off the rain. As we did so I pointed to the marquee across the street.

“Hey, who’s that?” I asked her. She, of course, yelled ecstatically that it was Pee-Wee. That’s when I told her that we were going to see Pee-Wee do an extra special show on a stage, not a movie or a TV show, but in person.

“You mean he’s gonna be real?” she asked. When I said “yes,” she literally jumped up and down with excitement.

During lunch, I instructed her on the basic rules of theater going. “You can laugh and you can clap,” I told her, “but you can’t talk. If you have to tell daddy something, you have to whisper it. And once the show starts, you can’t leave your seat. So if you have go to the bathroom, make sure to let me know before the show starts.” She listened to and completely understood all of these instructions, which is an extremely rare occurrence.

Once inside the theater, I was genuinely surprised/delighted by the large age range of the attendees. People much older than me and people much younger than me. Kids coming with their parents, older than The Baby but clearly not being dragged along–I mean, kids 8 to 18 who were just as excited as my kid to be there, bringing their own Pee-Wee dolls and tin foil balls. I also saw one grown man dressed exactly like Pee-Wee, which wouldn’t have been that weird except that he had this air about him of wanting very much to be noticed as The Guy Who Dresses Like Pee-Wee. If it’s possible to stand still conspicuously, he was doing it.

The Baby sat in her seat and eagerly awaited curtain time. As I sat next to her and checked my phone, she angrily insisted I had to watch the stage. “The show’s gonna start!” she yelled, and literally pulled my face toward the still-silent stage.

Ironically, after I worried about her bathroom needs, it was me who had to make an emergency run. With six minutes until the show started, I made the executive decision to go to the men’s room to forestall any discomfort during the performance. The Baby made me promise we wouldn’t miss anything, so I literally ran down the stairs to the lounge area, carrying her under one arm, took care of business, and ran back up to our seats. Elapsed time: 90 seconds.

When the lights went down and Pee-Wee came on stage, I knew the tickets were worth every penny. I’ve never seen The Baby with a look of such pure, delirious joy. “It’s Pee-Wee!” she squealed, because she could barely believe it. She held out her action figure throughout the show so “Pee-Wee” could watch Pee-Wee. I wish I could have taken pictures of her, and yet, I didn’t need to, because I will never forget the look on her face at that moment.

She lagged at times, as would any four-year-old forced to sit in a dark theater for 90 minutes, and she was even scared at one part of the show when the lights went out in Pee-Wee’s playhouse. But overall, she had an amazing time, and I am so grateful I could share that with her. And since I bought the tickets, I guess I’m grateful to me. Thanks, me! Oh, and Pee-Wee for doing the show, I guess.

The next morning, on the way to school, she said apropos of nothing. “I can’t believe we saw Pee-Wee!” She told all her friends and teachers about the show, but they had little idea of what she was talking about. “They didn’t know Pee-Wee,” she said, with the annoyed sigh of someone who’s a little too hip for the room.

It’s the best Christmas gift I’ve ever given to anyone: an experience that she’ll remember for a lifetime. And also, the ability to feel vaguely superior to her classmates.

One More Year

hat.jpgLast year, I wrote an appreciation for The Baby on her third birthday. Here it is a year later, and she’s turning four, which I can barely fathom. She talks better than me now. She’s learning her letters and numbers at lightning speed. I’m looking into kindergartens (to enroll her in, not just peeping through the window). She has become extremely opinionated about her daily wardrobe. Truth be told, she’s not The Baby any more. She’s a little girl.

I can barely say that, or even write it, because it seems so insane to me. The amount of time that’s passed in her life already is unfathomable to me, as difficult to wrap my head around as the concept of infinity (which I had to do when she asked me ‘What comes after space?’ and I tried to explain to her that space goes on forever). And I realize that so many of the cute things she said and did when she was little are dangerously close to being lost in my memory (because I need that brain-space to remember crappy 30-year-old commercials).

So I’m furiously trying to compile all these items so they won’t be forgotten (in a Word doc, because computer programs never become obsolete!). Like how when she was newborn, she wouldn’t cry, but make a ‘mew’ sound, almost like a kitten. How when was only a few months old, she used to light up when she heard the Feist tune used in an incessant series of iPod ads. How she had a set of play keys and would toddle around the house trying to “unlock” all the doorknobs she could barely reach.

spacecadet.jpgAs I compiled these things, going in chronological order as much as I can, what I keep coming back to is how gloriously silly she is, and how that allows me to be silly in a way that would be impossible without her. Like how she’s watched Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure so many times now that I recite scenes from it with her, verbatim (at her insistence). Or how she does the herky-jerky dance from Mr. Show (don’t worry, I just let her watch the dancing part). Or how she wants to be a “spaceman,” and asks mommy to make her a spacesuit out of tinfoil. (Stunning results seen here.) Or how, when she’s taking a bath, she loves to see me slide past the open bathroom door in my socks, often backward. (I’m talented.)

With each passing day, as she discovers something new, I feel like I’m discovering it right along with her. It helps that she has an affinity for things I like, such as The Adventures of Pete and Pete (she does a spot-on impression of Artie, Strongest Man in the World). But it’s so easy to be jaded and cynical about everything in this world, and having her in my life reminds me that there are wonderful things in it.

When she was first born, and I’d see her lying in her bassinet sleeping, I’d approach it slowly and listen for her breathing. It seemed impossible to me that something so unbelievably tiny and fragile could be alive. I thought a strong wind could hurt her. As time goes on, you realize that kids are much tougher than they appear. I’m astounded at how quickly her bumps and bruises disappear; you can literally see her heal over the course of a day.

Even so, when your child is hurt, it pains you like nothing you’ve felt before. Earlier this year, The Baby came home from school in an odd mood. She’s very often cranky, but this was something different entirely. She seemed depressed. I kept asking her what was wrong, but she said “nothing,” in this sad, distant voice that told me it definitely wasn’t nothing.

I did lots of things to cheer her up, putting on her favorite shows, taking her out for pizza, then getting her ice cream. She’d be happy for short bursts, then I could see a switch go off, as if she remembered “oh wait, I’m still sad,” and she would settle into a funk again.

Finally, as we walked back home, I got the story out of her. Some boy she was friends with at day care said he wasn’t going to play with her anymore. He would play with some other girl. She was heartbroken, and it broke my heart, too. It was her first taste of rejection more serious than me not giving her a cookie, and I realized this was the just the first of many heartbreaks that awaited her. I thought about being a little kid and how awful it feels to be excluded, usually for reasons you’re never told or can’t understand, and I felt the weight of all that sadness on me.

We were walking home on an overpass above the Long Island Expressway. She likes to watch the cars zip back and forth beneath her, especially at night, and the Manhattan skyline glisten through the exhaust haze in the distance. She stared in that direction, but really didn’t take any of it in.

“You feel sad?” I asked

“Yeah,” she said.

“You know what I do when I feel sad? I think about things that make me happy. You know what makes me happy? You.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, sometimes I’ll get sad or mad during the day when I’m away from you, and I’ll think of something silly you did or said and it makes me happy. Maybe you can think of somebody who makes you happy and that will make you feel better.”

She thought for a while, hand on chin, and named a classmate, not the one who’d just rejected her. “She makes me funny!” she said, which I interpreted to mean, She makes me laugh, and added, “I like to make people funny!”

“It’s nice to make people laugh,” I said, “because when people laugh, they’re happy.”

“Yeah…” she said, with a little laugh herself. We went home and watched Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure for the 8 billionth time. She laughed as hard as she always does for the Breakfast Machine scene, and when Pee-Wee yells IS THERE SOMETHING YOU CAN SHARE WITH THE REST OF US, AMAZING LARRY?!

She could not stay awake long enough to see her other favorite part, Pee-Wee overdubbed in his movie cameo (“Paging Mr. Herman…”), and fell asleep curled up next to me. I carried her to bed, laid her down, and kissed her good-night.

Watching her sleep, I thought about how tiny she once was and how I used to think her every breath was a miracle. And I thought about how fragile she once was, and still is, and how there isn’t a single thing I wouldn’t do to spare her one second of pain. Though I’m sure I could do anything for her, I haven’t been called on to do anything Herculean yet. Usually it just takes a 98-pound man-child wrapping scotch tape around his face.

YouTubery Friday: Pee-Wee Christmas!

It’s Friday! Procrastinate and count down to happy hour with these lovely bits!

In case you haven’t heard, Pee-Wee Herman is back! He’s doing live shows and appearing on TV shows and all other sorts of wonderful things.

Is Paul Reubens a bit too old to be doing Pee-Wee Herman? One could make the case. But considering how he was railroaded off TV in the early 90s (and for what, exactly?), I think the man is just making up for unjustly lost time. He could keep doing Pee-Wee until he’s 90 years old, and I would say ‘bravo’!

* Note to Paul Reubens: Please don’t do Pee-Wee when you’re 90. Don’t go out like Groucho.

One part of Pee-Wee’s renaissance is a new, spiffed-up web site, which has many neat things. But perhaps one of the neatest items is The Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, which you can watch there in its entirety. It is one of the most deliriously weird Christmas specials ever made–in the best possible sense, of course.

For a lo-res sample, check out the opening below. A chorus of Marines (I think) sings a Pee-Wee-related carol, then Pee-Wee goes nuts introducing all the Playhouse denizens and special guests. Such luminaries as Frankie Avalon, Little Richard, Whoopi Goldberg, Magic Johnson…the list goes on and on!

Also, did you know that Pee-Wee appeared in the video for the holiday classic “Reggae Christmas”? And did you know that there was a holiday classic called “Reggae Christmas”? And did you know that this holiday classic was sung not by a real reggae artist, but Canadian rocker Bryan Adams?

I’m sure you feel much better now, knowing this exists. Yes, Bryan Adams sucks (he sucks so much that he won’t allow embedding of his videos, hence it’s absence in this post). But Pee-Wee improves anything he’s involved in a full 35 percent. It’s been proven by science.

If you want to watch the OFFICIAL version of the video, it’s here. If you’re wondering why Pee-Wee looks so glum, it’s because his friends made him the MTV VJ for the evening on Christmas and abandoned him shortly thereafter. You can peep the full version here. I would have included it below, but (a) it’s much lower res, and (b) it won’t allow me to turn off autoplay.

Sorry, but I can’t have my webbed site playing “Reggae Christmas” each time it loads. Can’t do it, not even for the love of Pee-Wee.