|Photo by Joe M. O'Connell|
Paul Reubens never once breaks into Pee-wee Herman's voice during a telephone interview ("I know you are, but what am I?"), but the odd manchild character fills the empty space around Reubens' words begging to be defined.
Kid show innocent? Subversive prop gag comedian? Pop culture icon? Early Nineties tabloid scandal-sheet cover boy? Pee-wee/Reubens is all of these things. He is both vintage, punk rock kitsch and smooth, white innocence. More importantly, he's back in Pee-wee's Big Holiday, an only somewhat unlikely collaboration with Judd Apatow that premieres at the South by Southwest Film Festival before airing on Netflix starting March 18.
"I'm part of Austin culture," Reubens said, reminding us that a big chunk of 1985's Pee-wee's Big Adventure was shot in Texas. "There's a famous sign that says 'Keep Austin Weird.' I'm represented on that artwork, and I tell it to people proudly." He's not certain of the sign's locale, but Pee-wee's image can be spotted in a Home Slice Pizza mural on South Congress emblazoned with the admonition "Don't Hate."
In 2011, Reubens also appeared at SXSW in support of HBO's The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway, a televised version of his stage show, which revived and essentially rebooted Pee-wee.
"I did that stage production with the idea that enough heat would happen to attract someone to make a Pee-wee movie," Reubens said. "Judd Apatow saw the show, and we set up a meeting. He was a big Pee-wee fan. He very early on said, 'I feel strongly that it should be a road movie somewhere in the same wheelhouse as Big Adventure.' That's what we did."
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