Growing up with Pee-wee… timed out perfectly.

This past weekend, Saturday Night Live (SNL) aired a rerun of episode #1588 from their current 36th season, starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Previously aired, I was certain I saw the entire episode. However I was unexpectedly floored when the SNL Digital Short, “Shots!!!” was played.

The short features Andy Samberg on a night out on the town with the fictional comic character, Pee-wee Herman. The two meet at a bar and drunkenly embark on misadventures, leading them to a dual-intervention which coincidentally ends with more drinking.

The laughter that bellowed awoke my daughter, who was in the next room. As I made my way over to soothe her, I realized that I wasn’t much older than she was when I first began watching Pee-wee on HBO in 1981. Back then, The Pee-wee Herman Show had not toned down its adult innuendo for children. However, I was too young to catch any of the dirty jokes and was rather captivated by the show’s puppetry.

In the mid-80s, when Pee-wee’s films and weekly television show were ready to invade the living rooms of children in America, I was primed and ready. Til the time he was arrested on my birthday in 1991, I regularly quoted Pee-wee lines, shouted whenever I heard the Secret Word of the Day, and truly believed that if I worked hard enough I would have my own Playhouse in Puppetland.

Over the past couple of years, Pee-wee had again begun making television appearances, hinting of a return. It was finally in 2010 that Pee-wee had returned to the pop culture limelight with his aptly named stage show, “The Return.” The stage show, which eventually made its way to Broadway, revived its adult nature from the 1981 HBO special.

How perfect, I thought to myself, that Pee-wee was a children’s icon when I needed him to be. Then later in my 30s, he was the quirky drunk on SNL when I need him to be. How many performers perfectly age with you like that? Not many. I feel very fortunate to belong to a generation that got to experience a portion of life without the internet, cell phones and personal computers. A generation where the phrase “Saturday Morning Cartoons” really meant something. I belong to the Pee-wee generation.


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