Today’s “Secret Word” is: Pee-wee! We raise a glass (of tequila?) to Pee-wee Herman’s “alter-ego” Paul Reubens (ha ha!) who celebrates his 62nd birthday today.
It’s been over 30 years since comedian Paul Reubens introduced us to his fictional character Pee-wee Herman and his amazing world of talking chairs, animals, and colorful quirky cast of character friends like Miss Yvonne, Pterri and Cowboy Curtis. Reubens debuted his Pee-wee character first on the standup comedy circuit, but it was when one of his performances aired on an HBO special, that he catapulted to stardom. Pee-wee’s popularity quickly evolved into a more child-friendly version when he was tapped to create his TV series and big-screen flicks like 1985’s epic Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. The Emmy-winning Pee-wee’s Playhouse ran on CBS for five years and featured a number of celebrity guests like Oprah Winfrey and Cher. And who can forget his go-to insult comeback catchphrase “I know you are but what am I?”
Unfortunately, when Reubens was caught in an adult theater and subsequently arrested in 1991, a backlash ensued. Pee-wee’s Playhouse was pulled from CBS’s morning lineup and merchandise was removed from toy store shelves. Still, Reubens had the support of fans and celebrities like Bill Cosby and Cyndi Lauper saying the media attention was blown out of proportion. But Reubens’s career nonetheless took a hit, and he steered clear of the limelight until he re-appeared in character in 2007. By then everyone was ready to welcome the pop culture icon back with open arms.
These days Reubens is channeling his creative character-making abilities in new directions. This fall he’ll star in NBC’s hit thriller The Blacklist opposite “The Concierge of Crime” Raymond “Red” Reddington played by James Spader.
What are your favorite Pee-wee-isms and memories?