Over the years, he has done many great things to shape up his career to be the iconic phenomenon he is today. Performing his stage show in 1981 called The Pee-wee Herman Show was a huge cult hit among audiences. Taking a page from former kid's shows from the 50's such as Howdy Doody and Captain Kangaroo, he spoofs it and pays homage to it in a way that it's presented in a hilarious, campy, avant-garde, fresh, and awesome way. It's great not only for kids, but for adults as well with many subtle adult jokes that kids wouldn't understand until they get older.
This awesome show that took Paul Reubens' career as Pee-wee Herman by storm almost wouldn't have happened if he would have been accepted in Saturday Night Live. He was one of the last people called to audition for Saturday Night Live, but had lost it to Gilbert Gottfried. Angry and upset that he didn't get the part, he flew home back to L.A., called his parents to lend him money, and with the help of many people, got the stage show into fruition.
If only Reubens would have known earlier on that this rejection of not being in Saturday Night Live was actually a blessing in disguise. The season that he would have been in was referred to as "the worst season ever". Lorne Michaels temporarily left the show, the skits were not as funny as the previous skits, and the overall season was a complete disaster that almost got SNL cancelled. Thank God that Reubens didn't get in the show.
Things would have turned out so different if he would have gotten in. There would have been no stage show and possibly no Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Big Top Pee-wee, or Pee-wee's Playhouse. I can't imagine a world like that.
If you recall in my review of Pee-wee's Big Adventure with Les from Manic Expression, it's truly one of my favorite movies that Tim Burton has ever been involved in. Easily one of my top 5 favorites. Everything about this movie still works today and I'm so surprised that a movie that was filmed in 6 weeks with a small budget could do so well. Truly the minds of Reubens, Burton, Phil Hartman, Michael Varhol, and all the other actors and crew members really crafted this movie into one amazing experience that you will not soon forget. So many memorable moments, quotes, and scenes still reside on my head to this very day. Especially the biker bar scene where he dances to "Tequila" by The Champs. You can't help but crack a smile when you see him dance.
But what really resides in my heart is the show Pee-wee's Playhouse. Truly, one of the greatest, most creative, groundbreaking kid's shows I've ever seen and I am beyond grateful that I was able to see it on Saturday mornings when I was 3 or 4. Taking the 1981 stage show and introducing new characters and making it more for children was something that many people didn't suspect when first seeing it. But guess what? It worked! Also, the things they got away with is so jarringly hilarious that it just can't be beat. From the 2 1/2 minute intro to Pee-wee riding his scooter at the end is nothing more than just wild, campy, colorful, creative, and amazingly good fun!
When watching the show as a kid, I felt a connection with Pee-wee that I never felt with any other person. Growing up with Asperger's Syndrome, I was ignored and hated by everyone and was teased constantly just because I was different from them. I hated the fact that I was different and didn't know why (I didn't find out about my condition until I was 15). I wanted to change myself many times to be just like everyone else, but for some reason or another, I didn't. When the show reaired again on Fox Family in 1998 and at Adult Swim in 2006, I fell in love with the character and the show all over again. It helped me in a time in which I had extremely low self-esteem and lacking confidence to approach people and talking to them. I learned from watching Pee-wee's Playhouse again that it was okay to be who you are. The whole world was filled with people who want to be like everyone else and the most coolest person in the world is a person who's not afraid to be themselves. It took me a long time to learn that lesson and I'm glad I did and it's partly thanks to Pee-wee.
Around the 90's after Reubens had his "misfortunes", many people still stood by his side and defended him. While Reubens was still around on and off, Pee-wee wasn't. It was during a period in which it was an empty void for many people who grew up with him. Although it would take Reubens a while to find out, we still loved him and supported him 100%. We still do! That love and support still hasn't left us. It felt like our best friend had moved away unexpectedly and we didn't get a proper goodbye. While many of us grew up and moved on with our lives, we never lost our inner child that Pee-wee demonstrated every week. We never lost our creativity, our crazy antics, and our inner child. That's why many people today who love Pee-wee and the movies and shows are actors, screenwriters, comedians, musicians, artists, writers, parents who are introducing their children to Pee-wee, and many more. While the press and the pretenders had and (unfortunately) still bring up the incidents, the people who truly matter remember the positives that he had brought to this world as a comedian, a movie star, a TV star, and a kid's host and celebrate them. That outweighs the negatives by a long shot!
When Reubens came back as Pee-wee at the Spike TV Guy's Choice Awards in 2007, my college friends and I were beyond shocked and amazed! Here we thought that we would never see Pee-wee again and there he was on TV giving the Funniest MF Award to Will Ferrell. There was cheering, screaming, and awe when we saw our childhood hero walk on stage, getting a standing ovation, people chanting his name, and making the audience laugh. He still hadn't lost his touch. Some of the lines we were saying were:
"Oh my God, it's Pee-wee. It's really him! He's back!"
"Oh, that Pee-wee. He's still got it!"
"He was the highlight of the whole show."
"It's so satisfying to see him again being so loved by people!"
But then one jerk comes in, looks at the TV, and said "Oh my God, is that Pee-wee Herman? It's sad to see him in a state like this. He's gotten so old and fat".
We stared him down and he shut his mouth during the duration of that time. No one was going to mess up that night, not even a jerky college kid. As we saw him leave the stage and being confronted with many people, I thought to myself, "It's about time! Sure it took a while, but I'm glad you're back! Don't leave us again."
Over the years, we did not see him again. That is until the 2010 stage shows in L.A. and New York. I didn't get the chance to see him live, but it was so satisfying to see him perform in front of thousands of people who had truly loved him and grew up with him. When he would talk to the audience in the L.A. shows and go outside to greet the audience in the Broadway shows, everyone cheered and said that they had loved him and supported him all the way.
It was so great to have him finally get all the affection from the people who truly stood by his side when he went through his struggles. The media who had bashed him now praised him. The kids who grew up with him were now adults who have kids who are growing up with him now by showing them the DVDs. Reubens couldn't believe that after all this time, people had loved him. He was so touched by it that it was reported that he would even get emotional to the point of crying with joy. Well, Paul, we're crying too with joy! We couldn't be more proud of you! You truly deserve whatever praise you get!
After that, the comeback wagon was chugging along! He was everywhere again! In talk shows, in guest appearances on TV shows such as SNL and Top Chef: Texas, and being praised for his innovative and creative work on the 2011 Spike TV Scream Awards and the 2012 TV Land Awards. As you know, I wrote an article of my favorite Pee-wee Herman moments of 2011 back in New Year's Eve. It was the biggest thrill in my life to have Paul Reubens himself love it so much that he shared it among his fans on Twitter and Facebook. I will never forget that, Paul. I'm still proud of that article to this very day and I can't wait to write a new one for this New Year's Eve! But what's next for Paul Reubens and Pee-wee Herman? Well, we know that he's doing Tron: Uprising as the evil second-in-commmand Pavel and he's working on getting a new movie done with Judd Apatow. But who knows what's next. One of the best things about his upcoming projects is that we don't know about them, but when we do, it's always a fun surprise!
As I close this birthday message, I have to say just one final thought. Paul, I see you as the white lotus: a flower that mostly grows in Southeast Asia. It's a delicate flower that grows in a wet, damp, dark, and muddy swamp. But when spring comes along and the sun comes out, it shines and blooms like no other. It's the most beautiful flower in the world! When you went through your setbacks, you crawled back into a dark place thinking that you were no longer accepted. But when you came out, you shined and blossomed like no other. You made people smile and happy in a period in which times have gotten tough with the economy, the war, and unemployment. You made people forget for one moment of their problems and brought them back into a world in which they didn't have to grow up. A simpler time in which they could laugh, play, and smile with their friends. Thank you for shining into our lives like the lotus flower: a flower that symbolizes beauty, determination, rebirth into a new life, and eternal youth.
While it's true that Pee-wee taught us to be ourselves, to be creative, to use our imagination, and that it was okay to be different, Paul had taught us an even more important lesson. He taught us to never give up when things were down. Did he give up when he didn't get into SNL? No! Did he give up when Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Pee-wee's Playhouse was almost not made? No. Did he give up when people were making fun of him and bashing him for his indiscretions? Absolutely not! He persisted and gotten up from his feet to move on and continue doing what he was good at: making people laugh. May you never give up that fighting spirit, Paul. May you continue to follow your dreams and goals even when things look hard and impossible. May you never lose that childish persona that we have come to know and love. May you never again forget that there are many, many people out there who still love you and respect you in every way!
Happy birthday Paul! May it be a special one and may you have many, many more.
Your friend and longtime fan,