Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas with Pee-Wee!

Lately, Pee-Wee Herman has been calling my name. I pulled out my blu-ray collection to watch “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special” and ended up viewing every episode in the series. They really hit the spot. If you’ve never seen Pee-Wee’s Christmas Special, it is the wackiest, most creative, and eye-popping holiday show you will ever see. Go ahead…disagree…and then please go away. This special episode of the Playhouse series debuted on December 21, 1988. After a leisurely camera pan around the exterior of the Playhouse itself, Pee-Wee leaps onto the screen with two Supremes-inspired backup singers (the one on the left is Niki Harris, backup dancer/vocalist from Madonna’s “Truth or Dare”) belting out his retro Christmas theme, “Pee-Wee’s Christmas.”

Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee) sent out a ton-o-letters to various celebrities to see if they’d want to be on his show. What he got was the kookiest assortment of up-and-comers and classic icons, like Annette Funicello, who is just as adorable as you would expect. 

The U.S. Marine Corps Choir serve as the backup dancers in the opening number. Well, actually, it’s the UCLA Men’s Choir filling in, as the Marine Corps were already booked.

“Playhouse” favorite Miss Yvonne (Lynne Stewart) appears, wearing an appropriately mile-high bedazzled Christmas hairdo and festive outfit. Stewart recalled that the original wig had lights on it, but the mechanism hidden under her dress began to spark and sizzle. That was the end of the lights...and almost the end of Stewart! Here she is bestowing the first of many Christmas fruitcakes upon Pee-Wee. The punchline of this running gag is not to be missed.

The tradition of Conky 2000 spewing out a secret word of the day is carried on, but this time Cher is on hand for it. Every time you hear the word “Year,” you need to scream real loud, ok?

The musical numbers are fantastic, with Grace Jones’ rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy”…

the “heavenly intonations” of the Del Rubio Triplets with “Winter Wonderland”…

K.D. Lang clowning to “Jingle Bell Rock”…

…and Charo’s “Feliz Navidad.”

When she hears the secret word, she gives her trademark “cuchi cuchi”!

Mrs. Renee (Suzanne Kent) appears with a Christmas fruitcake for Pee-Wee and also explains the Jewish holiday Hanukkah with assistance from Jambi as everyone sings the Dradel song.

This is one of the many things I love about the show. It educates the audience in a fun way about different ethnicities, cultures, and religions without beating the uninformed over the head as if they were the devil. Hey World....take note. THIS is the way you get people to understand how different people can coexist in peace and love.

There’s no singing from Little Richard, but plenty of wailing, as the legendary musician flails around the ice with a pillow on his rear to protect him from falling. According to the director, Richard asked if he should scream like a white woman or a black woman when he fell. You’ll have to be the judge as to which way he chose.

Santa makes a guest appearance just in time to assist with delivering the moral of this story…

which in true creative/fun Pee-Wee style is not like a sledgehammer over the head.

You can catch this episode on itunes for just $2.99 (no, I don’t get a cut of that!), and I guarantee that you will be very happy that you did. And if you’re not…then you probably don’t like this blog either.

For all those that celebrate, Have a VERY Merry Christmas, and I hope to see you in the New YEAR!!!! Scream real loud!

See more Pee-Wee Herman photos at my main website.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the wonderful posts this year Dave. A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours. Appears we will have a white one up here!! KS

DBenson said...

The DVD has two fun commentary tracks on it, one starring the puppeteers who kept all those characters moving.

Recall a toy show where Lynne Stewart had a booth. It was summer but she wore a Christmas tree costume, her pitch being that she'd be on your Christmas cards.

Fifthrider said...

This recommendation is extremely appreciated, thank you. I'm sifting through holiday offerings on streaming and not entirely thrilled about all I've found. ( Kurt Russell's didn't work out, Mel Gibson as Santa wasn't bad, and the animated "Klaus" was a 10/10 ). I will cheerfully head over to iTunes to get that one because Pee-Wee's style was underrated and not appreciated as much as it should have been. Like you said, subtle and enjoyable, not a beating over the head. I never got the hatred for fruitcake but I get it's a running gag. If anything I'm sorry it's next to impossible to track down one anymore. I'd watch that show just for Grace Jones. She was our Lady Gaga, but weirder, and first.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Merry Christmas, Dave!

Nanook said...

Merry Christmas, Dave. Thanks for reminding me to catch this episode again. And thanks for all the great posts.