Sunday night, for some strange reason, I found myself singing the theme song to Pee Wee’s Playhouse. I don’t know why I started, or what made me think of it, but I was trying to remember how much of the lyrics I could come up with.

“…The Flowers are singin’, the Picture Phone is ringin’, and the dinosaur family goes “Hi!” Mr. Kite’s soarin’, Conky’s still snorin’, there’s the flashing Magic Screen…”

My wife asked me why I was doing this, and without getting an answer, started to chime in.

Imagine my shock Monday, when news feeds started sharing the headline that Paul Reubens had died of cancer at the age of 70 the night before. It was a gut punch, and I felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness come over me. How could this ageless character suddenly be gone from our lives?

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is almost 40 years old, and yet mention the Alamo, and most people will immediately shout “there’s no basement at the Alamo!”

(Did you catch a young Jan Hooks from Saturday Night Live?)

In fact, “I know you are, but what am I,” “tell ‘em Large Marge sent-cha,” and “I’m a loner… a rebel” are still phrases that I quickly associate with Pee Wee. The madcap hi-jinks of a boy, trying to find his one true love… his bike. To this day, who can stop themselves from jumping up on a chair or table when The Champs classic “Tequila” plays?

Even the television show Pee Wee’s Playhouse has a special place in my heart. His side look and giggle, screaming when someone uttered the “secret word,” or saying the magic phrase by Jambi… “Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney ho” to make a wish come true. It was so childish, and yet even as I entered the age of double-digits, I found myself entertained by Pee Wee. I think few entertainers have had the ability of Paul Reubens to entertain both young and old alike.

An interesting tidbit about Pee Wee’s Playhouse. The theme song was written in part by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo. (Yeah, the “Whip It” guy.) It was performed by Cindi Lauper, who did her Betty Boop impression, and was credited as Ellen Shaw.

I didn’t realize that even through the television all those years ago, Pee Wee was a friend who was always there to make me laugh. I am profoundly saddened by the death of Paul Reubens, as I’m sure many of my listeners are, too.

Rest in peace, Pee Wee.

Chris Farber / Saturday Night Mix-Tape

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