15 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About Pee-wee's Playhouse and Big Adventure
Pee-wee has a rich history having been around since the late 70s, but his two most notable performances are in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Here are 15 facts that will have you saying “I know you are but what am I” until your significant other leaves you.
Rob Zombie Was A Production Assistant on Pee-wee’s Playhouse
The set of Pee-wee's Playhouse had a terrifying horror genius lurking in the shadows. Right around the time White Zombie was formed, Rob Zombie was working as a production assistant on the show. I guess that's why Peewee looks so much like House of 1,000 Corpses.
Pee-wee Is Named After A Harmonica
Paul Reubens explained the origins of the character’s name in an interview with Mental Floss. Reubens said, “The name Pee-wee came from a little harmonica I had that said ‘Pee-wee’ on it. I loved the idea of a nickname, because it sounded so real to me. ‘Pee-wee Herman’ sounds like a name that is so odd, how would you make that up? If you were going to make up a name, you’d make up a better name.”
Laurence Fishburne Didn’t Know Peewee’s Playhouse Was A Comedy
Laurence Fishburne told Conan that when he auditioned for the show he had no idea it was a comedy and had a much darker take on the Cowboy Curtis character.
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure Made Bank
Pee-wee's Big Adventure was a massive smash hit at theaters, turning its measly seven million dollar budget into 41 million dollars at the box office. Seven million dollars may not seem like much, but remember that the movie Grown-Ups cost 80 million.
Pee-wee First Appeared At The Groundlings
Before Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, or Pee-wee’s Playhouse there was Paul Reubens and The Groundlings. Paul formed the character while performing and training there, then developed it into a midnight show called “The Pee-wee Herman Show”. Later on, Herman had generated so much buzz, it moved to the Roxy theater, and was taped by HBO leading to Pee-wee’s more mainstream success.
Pee-wee’s Playhouse Was Originally Planned To Be An Animation
CBS had originally approached Reubens about turning Pee-wee into an animated show, but Paul wasn’t interested. He told Rolling Stone, “So when they suggested doing a cartoon, I said ‘I'm not really interested in that; let's do a real kids' show.’ I was a big Howdy-Doody freak growing up—I was actually on one show when I was a kid, in the audience—and was more interested in doing something like that. Howdy-Doody, Captain Kangaroo, a lot of the local kids' shows that were on a long time ago—those were the influences.”
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure Was Tim Burton's First Hit
Tim Burton was not a big-time director when he got the call to do Pee-wee’s movie, as he was only 26 at the time. However, while the studio had another director in mind, Reubens fell in love with Burton’s work on Frankenweenie, which he watched to support his friend Shelley Duval who also appeared in the film. Reubens told Ain’t It Cool News, “I knew Tim was the director about 15 seconds into Frankenweenie, like the second or third shot of it. I was looking at the wallpaper in this bedroom and the lighting and just going, ‘This is the guy who has style and understands art direction.”
Reubens Had Complete Creative Control On Pee-wee’s Playhouse
Throughout all five seasons, Reubens was given complete and total creative control over the episodes. Reubens recalls that he was only given notes by the censors on a handful of occasions, citing an incident where the network said, “You can't stick that pencil in that potato, because pencils are sharp, and you might encourage kids to stab things.” Reubens added that “ All the changes they asked us to make seemed really reasonable to me, and we accommodated them. I think in 45 episodes, there were only maybe three other changes they ever asked for.”
Pee-wee’s Playhouse Went Over Budget Every Season
Not only was Reubens responsible for the content of the show, but he also found himself in control of the finances. Because the show had a set budget, Reubens would often spend way more money out of pocket to make things “perfect.” Reubens explains, “when it went over budget—that came out of my pocket. I don’t want to mention a figure, but we had one season that was over budget by a lot of money. I’m a little bit of a perfectionist. Not a little bit: I’m a perfectionist … I want to rebuild the whole Playhouse door if it’s too big or the wrong color. So I feel like I’m a great producer, but I also have distinct limitations in that department because I will always spend more money and not sacrifice quality. So it went over budget a lot. Like, every season.”
The Theme Song Is More Famous Than You Think
Ever wonder why the Peewee’s Playhouse theme is such a bop? It’s because it was co-composed by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh and performed by pop star Cyndi Lauper.
Natasha Lyonne Is In Pee-wee’s Playhouse
Natasha Lyonne appears in her very first television acting role in the first episode of the series, “Ice Cream Soup.” Unfortunately, production was moved from New York to LA, so Lyonne’s time on the show was short-lived. Lyonne said in a 2018 interview, “Nothing makes me feel legitimately cool quite so much as the fact that I was on that show.”
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure Was Supposed To Be Similar To Pollyanna
Originally, Paul Reuben’s wanted Pee-wee’s Big Adventure to be a story similar to that of the Disney classic Pollyanna. This idea was tossed aside when the idea for searching for a bike came around, but some of the ideas were able to be recycled in Big Top Pee-wee.
Pee-Wee’s Bike Sold For $36,600 On eBay.
In 2014 one of the original bikes from Peewee’s Big Adventure was put up for auction on eBay. The seller was hoping to get around fifteen grand for the red bicycle but ended up with $36,600 dollars in his digital pocket.
Jambi’s Iconic Catchphrase Was Jibberish
John Paragon who played Jambi the floating head fortune teller in Pee-wee’s Playhouse disclosed on a Pee-wee’s Playhouse Blu-ray collection that he completely made up “mekka lekka hi mekka hiney ho. Mekka lekka hi mekka chany ho.” He went on to say, “So I’m in The Groundlings and we’re doing a sketch and it’s customers in a Hawaiian restaurant and I’m wearing a Hawaiian shirt and doing Hawaiian gibberish. So that’s where that line came from. It was supposed to be bad Hawaiian.”
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure Was Danny Elfman’s First Feature Film Score
Tim Burton approached Danny Elfman about scoring the movie after seeing his band Oingo Boingo play. Elfman was very hesitant about joining the film as he had never scored anything before. Elfman told Rolling Stone, “He showed me scenes from the movie and I recorded a piece and sent in a cassette. I never expected to hear from them again. About two weeks later, I got a call saying, 'You got the job.' My first reaction to my manager was to call him and tell him I can’t do it. He goes, 'I’ve been working on this for two weeks. You call and tell them you can’t do it.' I slept on it and decided the single piece of anything that’s guided my entire life was saying, 'F*ck it.' Like, 'I hope I don’t wreck their movie.'”
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Top Image: CBS