Pee-wee Herman's Comeback Welcomed With Jubilation

Fans rally behind the disgraced TV star

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For those who've been holding their breath for eighteen-odd years, relax: the Pee-wee Herman Show is back. The program's creator, Paul Reubens, is launching a stage play in Los Angeles with all the familiar characters of his 1980s CBS television show Pee-wee's Playhouse. Reubens was chased from the airwaves in 1991 when police arrested him for indecent exposure at a Florida theater. He was also accused of child pornography by Los Angeles cops though the charges were later dropped to misdemeanor obscenity. Across the web, Pee-wee fans are rejoicing his return and shaking their heads at the way he was publicly ostracized:

  • It's About Time writes Scott Ross at NBC News: This "only begins to address the tragedy that was Pee-wee Herman's totally unnecessary departure...That such a great and unique talent was banished for so long simply for engaging in behavior that Americans enjoy in to the tune of more than $2.5 billion annually is absurd. His return is overdue as it is welcomed."
  • Unfairly Judged, writes Richard Goldstein in The Village Voice: "He straddled the boundary between man and boy, straight and gay, sexual and innocent. By setting his queer comedy in a children's show he aroused all sorts of adult anxieties. What if this childlike man is actually a pervert? How can he not be?"
  • We Owe a Lot to Pee-wee, writes Amy Wallace in Details Magazine: "Without him, there would be no SpongeBob Squarepants on TV, no Mini Me in the Austin Powers movies, no Thom Browne pencil suits... Perhaps the most groundbreaking part of Pee-wee's Playhouse was its diverse cast... But Pee-wee's wacky world wasn't just colorblind--social outcasts were welcome, and the show proved effeminate gay camp had mainstream appeal. It was a quirky, polyglot utopian oasis in Reagan-era America."
  • A Cultural Icon, writes Jordan Hruska at The Economist's culture blog: "He's the quintessential American populist, humorously affirming the futility of our guises. By challenging these comfortable cultural divisions, Pee-wee shows us that a nation of rebels is, in fact, a nation with a common bond...He is grandly affirming in his childish naiveté.
  • This Will Take Off, writes a blogger at The Orlando Sentinel: "Kids, including my kids, still love Pee Wee's Big Adventure...I'll bet this stage act is a hot ticket. I'll bet something comes of this, too -- some sort of (non-children's) TV gig or movie. It's been 18 years and he didn't hurt anybody."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.