Of all the things I thought I’d never see in this lifetime, chief among them was a live stage performance by Pee-wee Herman.
And so it was with great enthusiasm and a certain sense of disbelief that I attended the press conference at Club Nokia in which Pee-wee himself announced his detailed plans for “The Pee-wee Herman Show”, a live stage show set to run January 12-February 2 at the very same club. We learned that “The Pee-wee Herman Show” would be a full Broadway scale production and then some, due to the numerous puppet characters and bizarre set decorations that would have to be functional in real time. We also learned that Pee-wee is most likely immortal, because he looks just about the same as he did 20 years ago, even up close.
Pee-wee, now and then.
Director Alex Timbers spoke a bit about the narrative of the story and the decision to go with a more PG presentation than the original stage show, which was slightly more adult in nature. (Many people don’t remember this, but before he was a children’s show host, Pee-wee was doing HBO specials and Cheech & Chong movies.) Everyone agreed that part of the appeal of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse" was that it could be enjoyed by children, his or her parents, and stoner college kids in equal measure, so it made sense not to go too blue with the humor.
I asked Alex about what kind of audience participation we’d be seeing, and appeared to have grasped a hotwire of sorts. When pressed for an insight as to what the secret word would be, I was denied. There would be no screaming for those of us seated at the roundtable that day.
The secret word: Only Conky knows for sure.
Next we spoke to the costume designer, Ann Closs-Farley, who gave us some insight into the character designs and the iconic Pee-wee fashion that we’ll be seeing in the show. Since this is somewhat of a retelling of the original stage show, Cowboy Curtis and Miss Yvonne, Jambi and Mailman Mike would be factoring heavily into the performance. Almost all of the original actors will be reprising their roles save for Laurence Fishburne, who will be supplanted by cult favorite and Futurama alumni Phil Lamarr as Cowboy Curtis. Apparently, there will also be a big set piece based on “bumpits”, a crappy infomercial product that women use to give their hair a beehive effect, and one that Miss Yvonne will no doubt abuse to great hilarity.
Miss Yvonne: Bumpit pioneer.
Speaking to Pee-wee himself was somewhat intimidating even to a seasoned reporter like myself. A longtime fan, I view Pee-wee as an iconic figure in the company of such legends as Michael Jackson, Madonna and Weird Al Yankovic. Luckily, I suppressed the urge to jump up and down clapping like a flipper-baby and with him like a civilized adult talking to another civilized adult pretending to be a maniacal man-child. Pee-wee was very candid about his well-known attempt to resurrect the character as a film, and how difficult that had become. Going back to his roots, Pee-wee decided to tell his story as a live show just like he did way back in 1981, and was surprised by the overwhelming fan support when tickets immediately began selling out for every date across the board (despite Ticketmaster doing their best to rape the shit out of potential buyers with their “convenience fees”. Seriously, why does this company still exist?).
“The Pee Wee Herman Show” will retain the classic kitsch of the TV show that many of us grew up with, but will be updated with modern humor and references. For instance, the Playhouse will now be “wired” for the first time, with puppets having access to the Internet for the first time (something that didn’t exist during the show’s initial run). “The Playhouse is being brought into the 90’s” Pee-wee joked. Although I never really got a straight answer as to what made Pee-wee’s alter ego (Paul Rubens) decide to resurrect the character that he seemed to have grown tired of and/or scandalized into early retirement, I’m certainly not one to look a gift puppet in the mouth, and will surely be in attendance when the show opens January 12 at Club Nokia at LA Live.
Watch the video from the press conference here:
Tickets are available by phone or online at www.ticketmaster.com