Since his satirical, surreal Saturday morning series, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, went off the air in 1990 after five seasons on CBS, Pee-wee Herman has kept a relatively low profile. Last year, when plans were announced for a revival of The Pee-Wee Herman Show, the stage show that first popularized the character before his two feature films (Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Big Top Pee-wee), ticket demand was so strong that producers decided to mount it at L.A. Live’s Club Nokia instead of the smaller venue chosen originally and move the dates from November to January. Now Pee-wee Herman is back in full force, even showing up on the penultimate edition of the Conan O’Brien–hosted Tonight Show to simplify the Jay Leno versus O’Brien brouhaha for less savvy viewers.

This update of The Pee-wee Herman Show features many of the characters from the original production and focuses on the man-boy’s quest to see his lifelong wish to fly fulfilled. Pee-wee is conflicted when forced to choose to have his wish granted or better the lives of his friends. During the course of the show Herman breaks out his patented “Tequila” dance, tosses in the expected pop culture references — as a concession to gay fans, he quotes both Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn — and offers many of the same tongue-in-cheek moral lessons viewers have come to expect from the entertainer. Prior to opening night, Herman (portrayed by Paul Reubens, who declined to be interviewed out of character) spoke to about his strange appeal, the gay icons who visited the playhouse, gay marriage, and why he decided to make a grand return to the stage. For gay viewers, much of the appeal of Pee-wee’s Playhouse was in the way you mocked society's conventions. In one episode you married a bowl of fruit salad. How do you feel about marriage equality?

Pee-wee Herman: Come and see the show! There's a reference to it. [Pause] So the answer is yes, I support it.

Tags: Theater