Christmas at Pee-wee’s Playhouse first aired in 1988, but it holds just as much excitement now as it did back when it originally aired. If you have somehow managed to miss this classic Paul Reubens special, you owe it to yourself to watch it over the Christmas season.
Pee-wee’s Playhouse aired from 1986 to 1991 and followed the 1985 Tim Burton film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. While the Emmy-winning Pee-wee’s Playhouse was thought to be a children’s television show, many adults gleefully tuned in to watch it also. The Washington Post reports that working on the show was just as much fun as watching it, as animation and special-effects producer Prudence Fenton recalls.
“That show was so much fun to do. It was like getting paid to eat ice cream.”
Christmas at Pee-wee’s Playhouse is Christmas television at its finest. The show’s list of guests feature everybody you would expect in a Paul Reubens holiday special. Pee-wee’s guest stars include: Grace Jones, K.D. Lang, Dinah Shore, Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson, Little Richard, Cher, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Whoopi Goldberg, Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, the Del Rubio Triplets, and Joan Rivers.
Paul Reubens wasn’t the only one to notice that at the start of Christmas at Pee-wee’s Playhouse, as the guest stars are announced, the list seems to be virtually endless.
“I love that, that the cast list goes on and on and you think it’s over and then it goes on more. I actually used to know how long that was. I haven’t timed it recently. I did name every single person in the Playhouse. Even the food in the refrigerator. It was an unbelievable roster of talent. We had a big list of who to choose from and who was available, and we just went down the list and picked out the people we most wanted and got every single one of them.”
The guests on this Paul Reubens special also arrive in all sorts of incredible ways. Grace Jones makes her entrance after she leaves a very large crate that has just been delivered by Reba the mail carrier and breaks out into an impassioned version of “Little Drummer Boy.” For the trivia buffs amongst us, the backing track of this song was arranged and recorded by none other than David Bowie.
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Magic Johnson appears inside Pee-wee’s Magic Screen (Magic Johnson says Magic Screen is actually his cousin) and he and Pee-wee ride off in a Christmas sleigh together.
Dinah Shore sings “The Twelve Days of Christmas” into Pee-wee’s videophone and Oprah Winfrey calls in just in time to save Pee-wee from having to listen to the rest of the song. Let’s not forget Whoopi Goldberg, who also phones in and asks to be on the show.
Little Richard? Little Richard goes ice-skating with Pee-wee in Christmas at Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
At the beginning of Christmas at Pee-wee’s Playhouse, we are serenaded by a chorus of the UCLA Men’s Choir, who are dressed in uniforms as Marines and sing “Christmas in the Playhouse.” Pee-wee is then seen ruminating over everything he wants for Christmas. The list is so long that Conky practically breaks down when printing it out. Pee-wee is quick to point out in his list to Santa Claus that he has been extremely good this year.
Trouble begins when Pee-wee realizes that he has been pondering his Christmas list for so long that he’s completely forgotten to decorate the playhouse. But once again, Jambi the Genie comes to the rescue and as Pee-wee says the magic incantation required, he finds that his playhouse has been transformed into a sparkly tinsel-fueled Christmas paradise.
What inspired Paul Reubens to make Christmas at Pee-wee’s Playhouse? Little Village Magazine reports that Reubens grew up watching Christmas television specials and really wanted to create his own one day.
“I really wanted to do something around the holidays, so it seemed like doing a Christmas special would be a lot of fun. I loved Charlie Brown. The Rudolph ones, the stop motion ones with Burle Ives and the King family.”
If you’re in the spirit for Christmas fun, make sure you sit down and watch Christmas at Pee-wee’s Playhouse at least once during this holiday season.
[Featured Image by Charles Sykes/AP Images]