If I just posted a picture of the video box with 'frightening' stamped over it in big bold print, my job would be done. Pee Wee's Playhouse might've won its share of awards from committees who felt that the best venue of entertainment for a child was a show about a crackhead who marries fruit salad and hangs out with talking chairs, but now that I've had a chance to watch the show in my mock adulthood and not through the eyes of a 10-year-old still groggy from just waking up, I've come to see the awful truth: this is by far the strangest television program ever dreamt up.
We always knew Pee Wee was eccentric, both on and off screen. Its part of his charm. But watching this show again was like watching a monkey play baseball for the Red Sox. I was absolutely convinced that I hallucinated the entire affair. I had to watch in three times in sequence before allowing myself to believe that Pee Wee did in fact hang around with a tiara-wearing cow.
Today's episode is aptly titled 'Pajama Party'. As Pee Wee explains, this is when your friends all gather at a house, and spend the night. He details the catch-22: everyone must wear pajamas. Remember this, because its important to the story's drug-laced progression.
Magic Screen takes the royal honors of finding out this week's secret word from Conky. Already, we're treading into foreign territory. A magic screen is having a conversation with a robot. The secret word is 'watch', and you know the rules. Whenever someone works the word into the conversation, everyone in Pee Wee's house has to scream real loud. Now, understand this: the people screaming don't consist solely of Pee Wee and his invited guests, since everything in his house is alive. So when someone uses the word 'watch', its not just Pee Wee and Miss Yvonne screaming...its a chair, a dinosaur, flowers, ants, cows, wall hangings, and puppet bands screaming.
I'm guessing the purpose of this was to serve as some sort of memory exercise for the kids watching at home. Either that, or the show was just completely fucked up. Its total negative reinforcement. You damn well better keep an ear out for that word, because if you let it slip by you and forget to cover your ears, Chairy and Pterri will scream the soul out of you.
Pee Wee shows up in his pajamas, although he had already explained that it was morning, and I'm pretty sure slumber parties don't take place at 10 AM. Then again, the fact that Pee Wee's getting ready this early is by far the least of the show's problems. Miss Yyonne, who Pee Wee (and the flowers) announce as the most beautiful woman in puppet land or some shit, enters the fray and swears allegiance to the rules of Pee Wee's party, citing that her pajamas are in the sweet red box she's lugging around.
After cohersing Yvonne into saying the secret word a few times, the two of them decide to morph into puppets for a 90 second dance sequence...
Its safe to say that they'll never be a show like this on television again. There's no way Pee Wee was straight throughout all this. Nobody could maintain that kind of speed without being more drugged up than a lab monkey. Watching Pee Wee do a live routine must've had the same kind of appeal of watching a bull fight or a boxing match. You just never knew when the guy's head would explode. I'm surprised he was even caught jerking off in the back of a movie theatre...from the looks of things here, you'd need to have the ability to stop time itself to figure out what the hell he was doing.
Yvonne and Pee Wee introduce this week's 'Penny' short, one of the many animated or non-animated breakaways within the episode. Now I know why this show was geared towards kids. Children are more willing to accept the inexplicable and write it off as something they're just not old enough to understand. As we get older, we can decipher things a little better and realize when something flat out makes no sense. 'Penny', for example, shows a clay girl with pennies for eyes saying that the tigers were the best part of her trip to the zoo because they were the only animals who would talk to her. I'm lost too. Let's just accept the fact that this show was really made for stoners. In fact, I can easily prove that kids don't like this show.
As soon as I saw this one at the video store, I knew it was coming home with me. I was watching my sister's kids last night, and tried to kill two birds with one stone by putting this show on as a means to entertain them. Within two minutes, the older one went downstairs and the younger one started crying - literally - because he hated the show so much. I'm not kidding. He was in tears over how ridiculous Pee Wee's Playhouse was. So I'm thinking back...maybe the Pee Wee phenomenon was all hype? Think about it...there weren't too many other live-action kids shows on back then. What the hell were kids supposed to watch, Steampipe Alley? By today's standards, its proven: Pee Wee Herman drives children to tears.
Pee Wee: Hi ANTS!
Yes, Pee Wee has an ant farm. A lot of us did. Personally, my ant farms never met with much success. I didn't understand the whole 'freezing' process, so I always assumed I was continually being mailed dead ants. A friend and I used to try to catch our own ants, which universally resulted simply with more dead ants.
Of course, Pee Wee's antfarm isn't the usual fare. The ants are all 6" tall, dancing, and engaging in a pillow fight. Christ, and I lost my faith for this show. I'm serious - I'm Catholic, and as a kid, I had CCD classes. These were the classes that you had to take to make communion and confirmation, and the ones that taught you that yes, if you didn't go to church, there's a special place waiting for you in Hell. I don't want to turn this into a rant on religion, so here's the point: one year, the classes fell on Saturday morning. So each and every Saturday, I'd have to leave the house just as the esoteric opening credits to Pee Wee's Playhouse came on the television. So I'd sit in these classes, week after week, cursing God and doodling Conky in my Catholic workbook. In essense, I chose Pee Wee over Jesus.
Finally, Pee Wee's guest start arriving. They are, in no particular order: Ricardo the Mexican, The Mail Lady, Fat Hammy, and Lawrence Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis. Yes...Lawrence Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis. The guy who brought dignity to The Matrix and somber feelings of woe to Event Horizon got his start by giddy-upping on Pee Wee's dog-shaped sofa. Back then, he wasn't a big star, so he didn't get to have a fancy name. He was simply 'Larry' Fishburne. And BY GOSH - Cowboy Curtis has a problem!
I saw where they were going with this, and tried to stop it. But as hard as I prayed, it didn't stop the following sequence. If I had paid more attention to that god-fearing CCD teacher instead of my Conky drawings, maybe my prayers would be more effective. Cowboy Curtis' problem: he doesn't have pajamas. Why? Because he sleeps in the nude. Why why why? I'll tell you why. Its the perfect segue into an appearance by Pee Wee's wish-granting ghini head from hell!
Yes, its Jambi. The wittiest green head in television history. Here's the deal: because he's so gregarious and jovial, Jambi will grant Pee Wee one wish per day. Apparently, Pee Wee has grown so bored with this formality that he really half-asses the wishes. If someone told you they could make your wildest dream come true, what would you ask for? World peace? Billion dollars? Total annihilation of all psychic friends informercials? Pee Wee has something else in mind: pajamas for Cowboy Curtis! Even Jambi couldn't believe this one. Pee Wee's made some piss poor wishes in the past, but this really takes the cake.
Jambi's not gonna argue though. He presents Larry with a hot pair of silky cowboy pajamas, which he and Pee Wee both drool over for a good minute before joining the rest of the party. Later in the episode, Larry announces that he's sleeping outside, and that's the last we hear from him. He was in the show for a total of two minutes.
Now here's where things get really fucked up.
A GIANT, PAJAMA-WEARING, GREEN ALIEN CYCLOPS ENTERS THE PLAYHOUSE. WHAT IN GOD'S NAME?! Okay, I obviously have a very selective memory when it comes to this show. I remember Pee Wee singing Christmas carols with Charo, I remember the giant foil ball. But I know I've never seen this before. The thing is named 'Oscar', and nobody shows even the slightest bit concern over the giant green cyclops joining the festivities, so I guess we should just roll with it too.
No, fuck that. What the hell IS that thing? Why would Pee Wee be hanging out with it?! Who the hell scripted this show? I mean, come on, nobody's going to look at what's already gone down and say: 'Hmm. Its good...but it needs something.' If anything, we've already seen too much. I skipped over the part where the tiara-toting cow joins, but even she was nothing compared to this. Were the producers trying to screw with our heads? There was no buildup, no warning, nothing! Pee Wee and the gang are dancing, the doorbell rings, and in comes a fucking Triffid!
Finally, the gang decides its time for bed. Since we're only at the 15 minute mark, that's just wishful thinking. One of the idiots accidentally lets the secret word slip, so the entire party gets up and starts screaming again. After a few more minutes, Pee Wee screams for everyone to shut up. Maybe now things'll get a little more sedated. I wouldn't put money on it though.
Hammy goes to the fridge for a late night snack, and yes, all of the food is alive. Not only is the food alive, but its taking issue with Hammy waking it up! The strawberries were especially pissed. They don't mind getting eaten, but Christ, have some manners and wait till the morning. Still, Hammy had the right idea. The gang decides to have a midnight snack, leading to the episode's absolutely most fucked up scene. And considering the fact that we've already seen an alien, Lawrence Fishburne, and ants having a pillow fight...you can just imagine what's coming.
Pee Wee had some left over fruit salad, so they all have a picnic in the middle of his living room. Pee Wee relays the message that he loves fruit salad, so Miss Yvonne jokes and asks Pee Wee why he doesn't marry it. They all share a good laugh, but Pee Wee saw more in Miss Yvonne's words than the rest of us did.
So with that, I cordially invite you all to the feel good moment of the century: Pee Wee and the Fruit Salad's WEDDING.
Yes, Pee Wee fits a bowl of fruit salad with a bride's vail and marries it. The educational content of this show just went through the roof. On what basis did it win all those awards back in the day? What was this supposed to teach kids? Seriously, here's what we learned from today's episode.
* Cowboy Curtis sleeps in the nude.
* Even giant alien cyclops creatures have pajamas.
* Food doesn't like to be woken up.
* Ants have pillow fights.
I mean, Sesame Street was pretty weird at times, but at least they'd throw in a scene showing you how orange crayons were made or how to count from 1-10 to balance things out. Pee Wee was just all-out and complete insanity. Click here to download a movie clip that proves my point.
The rest of the gang falls asleep, giving Pee Wee the opportunity to escape. Can't say I blame him. With a group that consists of Miss Yvonne, a nude cowboy, a nude cow, a mail lady, and a talking chair...I think its pretty safe to say that that's the kind of fun that's good in small doses.
Those brave enough to weather the storm can purchase the Pee Wee's Playhouse giftset from Amazon by clicking here. If you do that though, I guarantee you'll never be the same again.