Inspiration: Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (plus Giveaway!)

The giveaway has ended, but you can see what’s in the Fun Pak here!

There was a time when Saturday mornings were magical, thanks in large part to Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. Even now, I still get a little thrill when I hear the first few notes of the theme song, which begins slowly and mysteriously before breaking into gleeful weirdness.

peewee_chairyI almost don’t know where to start when talking about how this show inspires me. Well, yes I do: the anthropomorphized puppet objects have a naive brilliance that I think I recognized even as a kid: Pee-wee’s chair is named Chairy and gives him hugs with her armrests, Clocky tells everyone when it’s time to play different games (all of them bizarre), and the Mr. Window tells us who’s about to ring the doorbell. (The door is just a door, though.) It’s pretty obvious that much of the inspiration for my own Grouchy Couch, Error, and Flushie (among others) came from Pee-Wee’s friends.

And then there’s the animation. I remember getting excited about visits to the ant farm, a world-within-a-world that the show occasionally featured. And the Penny shorts combine a happy claymation style with the almost dreamlike free-association stories of a chatty young girl.

Of course, Pee-Wee himself is the manic man-child who accompanies us through this weird world that is his playhouse. He may “scream real loud” more often than I would tolerate in a real person, but his over-the-top personality wins me over because his innocence is more feral than cloying.

I think the thing I love the most about Pee-Wee’s Playhouse is the way it takes mundane objects and activities that we’re all familiar with and makes them strange and thrilling. Maybe that’s how kids see the world anyway to some extent, but this version is just the right balance of playful and twisted.

I bet many of you are Pee-Wee fans like me, and so I thought I’d share some nostalgia for the show with a special giveaway! I came across someone selling old pop-culture trading cards at the Brooklyn Flea a few weeks back, and I couldn’t resist picking up some Pee-Wee’s Playhouse “Funpaks.” These are the real thing! Original 1988 cards made by Topps; according to the wrapper, they include 1 sheet of tattoos, 3 picture cards, 1 sticker, 1 wiggle toy, and 1 activity card.


Leave a comment by midnight on Monday (May 28th) sharing your favorite thing about Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (or one of the Pee-Wee movies, or even the more recent stage show). On Tuesday I’ll pick a random winner, who will get their very own Pee-Wee Funpak!

40 thoughts on “Inspiration: Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (plus Giveaway!)

  1. What don’t I love about Pee-Wee’s Playhouse?! It was a highlight of Saturday morning, for sure! Miss Evon, Cowboy Curtis, the King of Cartoons! Let’s not forget Jambi!!! We still do the word of the day now and then. And Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is still one of my favorite movies. I should stop now, I could go on all day. :-D

  2. I always just loved the idea of having my own playhouse like this! I really wanted a dog chair, though.

  3. I loved loved LOVED the Penny cartoons! I also loved the interaction between Ms Yvonne and Cowboy Bob (or was it Bill?) I thought there were most certainly sparks there!

  4. We LOVED Pee Wee!! I’m pretty sure some of us can still sing all the lyrics right along with Cyndi Lauper!!

  5. Oh my gosh! Pee Wee was one of my faves and I eagerly awaited Saturday mornings so I could watch him and his engrossing insanity. I recently rented Pee Wee’s Big Adventure for my children, okay for myself too, and everyone loved it! Large Marge was always my fave from the movie.

  6. I loved chairy, the secret word, and his outro with his super-decked-out scooter launching out into the sky.

  7. jambi is my favorite part. and of course, the magic word. oh and the decor of the playhouse! :)

    too many memories.

  8. I have the screen and Chairy…oh and a PeeWee. I love that show. In college I would get up on Saturday…watch the show…and then write the word of the day on the dry erase board on my dorm door. AHHHHH!

  9. Wow what a flashback! We used to watch Pee Wee religiously, and my brother and I enjoyed his movies as well. I love Big Top Pee Wee. My great grandma used to tell us Cowboy Curtis was Tracy Chapman’s cousin ;-) She was just being silly, of course, but that’s a memory I’ll always have.

  10. “Looks like hair, smells like hair, tastes like hair, it is hair! No, it’s bean sprouts.” This is written somewhere on my heart. I also remember a lesson about the difference between junk and stuff :)

  11. I love how PeeWee Herman is so weird, but having grown up with him, his eccentricities just seemed cool and awesome! My sister put on a PeeWee DVD for my niece and some friends recently. They didn’t like it and said he was too weird. I was disappointed for them! They just don’t know a good thing when they see it ;)

  12. I loved his big giant underwear!
    We also have the”Breakfast Machine” on high rotation at our house and play it often as a soundtrack to cooking, cleaning, or other dull activities!

  13. I’m definitely in the “what didn’t I love about him” camp! I watched the show religiously and loved Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. The claymation moment with Large Marge was probably my favourite, but I could go on and on with all of the parts that I love (“What do you remember?” “I remember… the Alamo…”)

  14. I loved Pee Wee’s Playhouse!!! I still do the word of the day at work on occasion and wish I had Chairy in my living room.

  15. I used to LOVE Pee-Wee! My most memorable morning watching Pee-Wee was some episode where either the house was shot into space or maybe Pee-Wee was in a rocket. But anyway, Pee-Wee was kinda scared and whoever was with him taught Pee-Wee how to whistle so he wouldn’t be scared anymore. I also learned how to whistle that morning.

    Many years later and ago I was out in San Diago, CA on a road trip vacation. I had looked up the dinosaurs that were featured in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and knew they were somewhere out in the desert. Well I totally went and visited them! I was pretty disappointed that you couldn’t sit inside the T-Tex’s mouth anymore, but you could go inside the brontasorous’s tummy. It was a gift shop. It was a long drive from where we were staying, and it was extremely hot but it was worth it!

    Nikki Kelly

  16. I totally forgot about Penny. I loved her. So cute. Pee Wee was always a little much for me, but my little brother LOVED him. I can see a stocking stuffer coming his way. :)

  17. I loved PeeWee so much as a kid! I worked at a day camp one summer, and I planned an entire farm-themed day around watching the second PeeWee movie. I wanted to watch the first one, but it was a little harder to work into a theme ..

  18. I loved the Penny cartoons and the ball of aluminum foil and the secret word. I saw the show on Broadway a couple years ago, it was amazing!



  20. I love PeeWee, and how he sometimes takes common expressions to extremes. About a favorite snack, maybe ice cream: I love (the snack), says PeeWee. Well, why don’t you marry it? says another character. PeeWee: OK, I will. A mock wedding , with minister and the snack bowl wearing a veil, immediately follows. I miss PeeWee!

  21. PEE-WEE’S giant underwear episode is still a favorite! Recently watched the stage show on HBO, which made me see just how far ahead of his time Pee-Wee really was – Magic Screen = Ipad?!

  22. Penny and Jambi were totally my favorites. :) You’re absolutely right – Pee Wee’s Playhouse made Saturday mornings more magical! I miss it!

  23. How can you NOT love Pee-Wee. I had no idea what an impact he had on my formative years till a year or so ago, “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” was on tv. I forced my 10-year-old son to watch it with me, and about 3/4s of the way through, he told me he thought it was really funny. “But Mom, do you have the WHOLE movie memorized?” Yes. Yes I do. And it had been dormant within the clown car that is my memory for at least 18 years… Favorite Quote: “…everyone I know has got a big ‘BUT.’…”

  24. How much Pee Wee shakes his head side ways and up and down in the theme song. I like surprises too! And mails. :)

  25. I love the fish~so witty~ They always give me a little chuckle. Reminds me so much of Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets.

  26. I am too old to have had the treat of watching PeeWee as a kid
    :-( My kids loved him though! But my favorite memory of PeeWee is pretty new. I have a friend who absolutely adores all things PeeWee and planned an entire trip to NYC around getting to see him on stage. In all the photos he sent back of him standing in front of the theater, he was grinning ear to ear. This friend has done some wonderful things for me and I would love to be able to give him this!

  27. I love the breakfast machine scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure:

    I loved Pee Wee’s Playhouse when I was a kid! I didn’t even mind getting up at 7 a.m. on Saturdays to watch it :-)

  28. PeeWee is my FAVORITE!!!!!!! I love penny and how her eyes are actually pennies. I LOVE all of the fun and creative things on the show. It would’ve been so much fun to be the people who wrote the show. I also like the talking frozen bacon in the freezer.

  29. I loved the hand with a face in the window that always told jokes. Peewee’s lessons were also great, I learned a lot from him, like when his red head friend gave peewee germs (he started coughing on him) because he didn’t brush his teeth. peewee yelled, “GERMS!” :)

  30. Ok, my favorite part had to be the word of the day. All that screaming – it was great!! I always wanted to start a word of the day in my house, but I could never get it to catch on … ;)

  31. Oh goodness. I will have to go with everything as what I loved about watching the shows and the movies. I can still watch them all with just as much enjoyment now as I did the first time I watched them. Though my adult mind finds more things to laugh about than younger me. Haha. I do still want his house from Big Adventure quite a bit. Maybe someday!

  32. My favorite thing about Pee-Wee is all of the nostalgia and happy memories that it brings up for me. I too was inspired by Pee-Wee. When I was in 5th or 6th grade I think (I’m 40 now), my best friend and I each bought a mouse from the local pet store. She named her’s Pee-Wee and I named mine Herman. We used an old wooden and wire cat carier for their cage. On the wooden door we wrote, Pee-Wee and Herman – The adventures of a mouse and his friend mouse. Herman lived a long and happy life. Whenever I see anything Pee-Wee related, I remember my friend, who unfortunately died way too young, and all of the fun and crazy things we did together.

  33. He let us know it’s ok to scream. His show is a multigenerational tradition in our family.

  34. We love Pee Wee’s great tunes and crazy faces. And his laugh, of course.

  35. OMG, as a kid I had blond hair, often tied back in pigtails or braids, and I wore glasses. My friend thought I looked like Penny! Pee Wee was the highlight of my Saturdays.

  36. Thanks for sharing the Pee-Wee memories, everyone! I’ll be randomly selecting a winner soon, so please check back!

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