Yo, Dude, Who Is Pee-wee Herman? (A Very Reasonable Question for 2016)

“Who is Pee-wee Herman? Not like, existentially. I mean: who is he?” If you’re under 20, you have no idea. And if you’re older, chances are you don’t have a good answer either. Pee-wee’s Big Holiday brings the question from a ‘90s Trivial Pursuit card to 2016. Released on March 18 by Netflix, the film reintroduces confused viewers to Pee-wee Herman after a 28-year hiatus. Other than the initial: “Why?” and “Huh?” these are the questions that first came to mind:

  • Who was clamoring for a new Pee-wee movie?
  • Who are the die-hard fans now celebrating after decades of hoping?
  • What the hell is Pee-wee? Is he supposed to be a child acting like a man or a man acting like a child? Is he a ventriloquist doll come to life?
  • Has Paul Reubens been practicing the character for the last 28 years just in case?
  • What demographic was Netflix shooting for? Old stoners? Children who never properly got to say goodbye?
  • Is Pee-wee older in the film or the same age?
  • How is the gag any different than Big Adventure? Based on the trailer, it looks pretty similar: a fantastical man-child on a journey through the real world. Didn’t Pee-wee learn anything from his first trip?
  • After Reubens’ 1991 arrest for indecent exposure (allegedly for masturbating in a porn theater) and 2002 arrest for possessing child pornography (charges were dropped), isn’t Pee-wee kind of creepy?
  • Who is a more obscure reference: Paul Reubens/Pee-wee or Jim Varney/Ernest?

And the most important question: Is it still funny? Was it ever? The best way to answer these questions and, “Who is Pee-wee,” is to spend 90 minutes with him on Netflix. Or maybe you should cherish distant memories and revel in the question, “Who was Pee-wee Herman?”