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Why Paul Reubens Never Concerned Himself With Pee-Wee's Backstory

Why Paul Reubens Never Concerned Himself With Pee-Wee's Backstory

The interview came right before the release of “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” the third feature film to star the character, and the first in 28 years. When “Big Top Pee-wee” was released in 1988, the world wasn’t yet obsessed with filming the origins of pop culture figures. By 2016, it seems that a Pee-wee origin story was practically expected. When Reubens was asked if that element might be a part of his “Big Holiday” screenplay, he said in plain terms that he had no interest in looking in that direction. In his words: 

“I feel like I’d be dead if I did that, and I think that’s a trap. A lot of people, over the amount of years I tried to reboot the whole thing, people would say to me, ‘Is it “Pee-wee: Origins?” You’ve been gone 30 years, are you going to explain that? Where has Pee-wee been?’ I sort of feel like, who cares where Pee-wee’s been? The thing that I loved about — that I still like about Pee-wee Herman — is that you look at Pee-wee Herman, you know who Pee-wee Herman is. You don’t need a lot of backstory.” 

Pee-wee was created by Reubens while he was studying comedy at the famous Groundlings Theater in Los Angeles (the same theater, incidentally, where Elvira was conceived). The school of thought involved creating a wild and funny character who would comedically clash with whatever situation you put them in. The character was born of comedic immediacy, not careful character construction or emotional motivations. Pondering a character’s origin is only something that occurs once a fan has, perhaps, spent a long time with them. 

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