Seeing the outpouring of gratitude and heartbreak over this loss makes me feel like I’ve done something right. To be connected to so many people who appreciate his genius gives me solace. It fills my heart to see so many friends describing how his work was a kind of model behavior that allowed them to find their way. People I have loved to work with and/or admire from a distance rightfully, joyfully look to Paul Reubens as a guiding light. What a gift!!
This is a loss that hits poignantly both in the Who and the When of it all. It’s no secret that I’ve been lovingly ripping off Paul Reubens for about as long as I’ve been performing. The Vacation Jason Show that never came to be was intended to be a direct lift of the Pee Wee’s Playhouse blueprint. I have an “Island Time” YouTube playlist I shared with Gethard from that brief window when we were meeting to discuss the project’s vibe. I collected hours of videos from all corners of my weirdo comedy sensibilities. But don’t let me kid myself. If need be, everything could be conveniently distilled to the opening and closing credits of Playhouse. It’s all there, and it’s all I wanted to have for my show and myself. The colorful, playful, energetic, imaginative draped over an undeniably sweet, encouraging vulnerability.
I was a little kiddo stinker smartass. The attitude was a much needed protective armor at the time. I remember the very first issue of MAD Magazine I was ever given. OJ Simpson’s mugshot was on the cover, but the photo was doctored to give him Bart Simpson’s hairdo. Suddenly I had access to an equal opportunity, “nobody’s safe!” corny, goofy, sardonic point of view. Anything grown-ups are up in arms about, there’s a way to roll your eyes and smart off about it.
I was at my friend Abe’s birthday party when his mom popped in a VHS of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. This was five years after Paul Reubens was caught and ostracized for jerking it to dirty movies. And so, my MAD-pilled ironically detached joker brain is working overtime to make a stink about this disgraced weirdo, ASAP. My mind could only remain closed until the third Real Loud scream for the secret word. I had been forever won over. Paul’s creation and execution is timeless and undeniable.
I remember being in high school when my best friend Zina, a committed radical clown art lifer, was writing her feelings over the loss of Marcel Marceau. I think often about how she described that she always thought, before he’d pass, she’d meet him someday. I found myself thinking the same thing about Paul yesterday.