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The Pee-wee Herman Show at Club Nokia: I Know You are, But What am I?

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l to r: Chairry, Mr. Window, Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens), Globey, Flowers. Photo by Ed Krieger/Used with permission

It's a good time to live in Los Angeles. Only Angelenos have the rare opportunity to see a new adaptation of "The Pee-wee Herman Show" at Club Nokia through February 7th. The show, adapted for this series by Reubens, Bill Steinkeller and John Paragon, is a mish-mash of bits and characters from Pee-wee Herman's stage, film and television productions. The show never drags in spite of rehashing old bits. The nostalgia factor makes even the repetitive jokes comforting.

"Pee-wee's Playhouse" was not only one of the most popular Saturday morning shows ever, it was downright subversive. Suggesting children "scream real loud" whenever the secret word was used probably scared the bejesus out of many a sleeping parent. Premiering in 1986, the show ran for five seasons.

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The Emmy award-winning "Pee-wee's Playhouse" was based on "The Pee-wee Herman Show", a live performance that ran at The Roxy, which in turn was based on a character developed for the Groundlings by Paul Reubens and Phil Hartman. In 1981 HBO filmed the stage show, which along with appearances on David Letterman, made Reubens a star.

Most of the cherished characters are back. Lynne Marie Stewart returns as Miss Yvonne, John Moody is back as Mailman Mike, and John Paragon is still hilarious as Jambi. There is no real claymation, which does not lend itself to the stage, so no Dinosaur Family. Floory and Sammy were also missed. Reubens respectfully does not recast Captain Carl (who was played by Phil Hartman), instead turning Miss Yvonne's attentions to Cowboy Curtis (Phil LaMar, in a part originated by Lawrence Fishburn). Familiar scenes with the King of Cartoons (Lance Roberts), Chairry, Clockey, and Pterry have the audience cheering with delight.

Also appearing are Josh Meyers as Firefighter, Drew Powell as Bear, Lance Roberts as King of Cartoons, Lori Alan and Maceo Oliver as voices, and Jesse Garcia appears as a new character named Sergio. Drew Powell appears as Bear, a character who communicates through interpretive happy dancing. Pee-wee responds to Bear with one of his occasional tantrums, "I hate guessing things like this, I hate mime, and I hate new characters!"

In addition to the new characters, there have been a few other updates. Pee-wee's home in Puppetland is now outfitted with a bathroom, and to be honest, the toilet jokes don't exactly hit the target (maybe they should stand closer!).

The old standard, "If you love it so much, why don't you marry it?" is given the modern addition of, "Oh, you can't; you're both girls!" Pee-wee also comments that he doesn't need a girl because he has this (holding up his hand and wiggling his fingers). He allows the audience just enough time to be shocked (He did not just go there, did he?) before pointing out his "abstinence ring" Psych!

As the show comes to a close, Pee-wee declares himself "the luckiest boy in the world." But the audience members are the lucky ones.

Please note, there will be no performances on Grammy Sunday, January 31st