TCA: Live From New York, It's Pee-wee!

From Ray Richmond, who is contributing to Deadline Hollywood’s TCA coverage:

He’s baaaaaaack. Paul Reubens (best known by his nom de plume Pee-wee Herman) invaded Pasadena and HBO’s presentation at TCA Friday afternoon, presented live via satellite from New York to promote his forthcoming 90-minute special The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway that’s scheduled to debut in March. It represents the triumphant return of an iconic character once thought dead but that’s now survived for better than 30 years.

Pee-wee has returned not just as a stage show but with a movie in his future as well, with Judd Apatow attached to produce, as Reubens gleefully discussed in his character’s trademark gray suit and red bow tie. He rarely broke character during a sometime surrealistic 25-minute Q&A that found him often leaving the gathered critics laughing (albeit grudgingly) as he mugged more or less constantly.

Claiming to be sitting in a Howard Johnsons restaurant in New York, Herman/Reubens said he’s excited to see how much longevity Pee-wee has had and hopes to continue on playing him “30 years from now when I’m 140.” How is it that Pee-wee has been able to come back so successfully? “I don’t know,” he said. “Certain things just come back. It’s cyclical. I think I just waited long enough and all of the people seem to like it again I guess.”

The only time that Renbens was inspired to expound with seeming sincerity was when discussing the production style of the forthcoming HBO special, which he insists “will look very different than most shows like this. You’ll see angles of the live performance that you’ve never seen before. We’ll intercut footage from cameras up on the stage that are panning and moving, which we were able to do because a lot of it is show without an audience. Visually, it’s going to be like nothing shot before in terms of a live stage production. I think it’s going to be visually dazzling.”

Reubens also talked about the Pee-wee movie he has in the works with top comedy producer Judd Apatow. He and co-writer Paul Rust recently submitted the first act of the script, and Apatow has not decided yet whether he will direct the potential movie, Reubens said. For awhile, Reubens had talked about a darker, more adult-aimed Pee-wee movie, but this will not be it. This will be “more reality-based, like Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, more like a road picture,” he said. “The dark Pee-wee movie won’t be happening until… things get a little darker.”

Beyond that, when an attendee asked Herman/Reubens if he could “address the Paul Reubens side of you for a moment,” he was met with, “Good luck.” And, later: “Go ahead and ask me anything. Well, not anything. Actually practically nothing.”

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