Pee-wee Herman Reveals ‘Playhouse’ Secrets

The host reminisces about his foil ball, Magic Screen, a messy fruit salad divorce and more.

LOS ANGELES — Dust off your bicycle, put on a bow tie and pull those platform shoes out of deep storage, because an icon of late-’80s entertainment is returning triumphantly to the scene. That’s right, kids, the one and only Pee-wee Herman is bringing his unique child/adult humor hybrid back to where it all began: the Los Angeles stage.

In a series of high-profile shows downtown, the “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” host is coming back with all of his old friends. And, if all goes well, he’s possibly laying the groundwork for a Hollywood return.

On the eve of the January 12 premiere of “The Pee-wee Herman Show,” one die-hard fan (me) sat down with an in-character Pee-wee to talk about the show. Sure enough, while catching up with old-school burning questions about the fates of Dottie, Jambi and Magic Screen, we found ourselves living as large as Marge.

MTV: First off, Pee-wee, we have to get the important stuff out of the way. What is today’s secret word?

Pee-wee Herman: The secret word of today is F-U-N. Fun!

MTV: That’s a good word. So, tell us about the show.

Herman: Wait, I forgot what the secret word was.

MTV: Fun?

Herman: AHHHHHHH!!!!

MTV: That’s awesome. Tell us about the show here in L.A. at Club Nokia.

Herman: Well, the basic plot of the show is Pee-wee Herman, played by myself, wishes that he could fly; that’s the plot. I wish I could fly, which is kind of taken from real life. It’s a case of art imitating life.

MTV: Magic Screen is a part of the stage show, and we remember that in the late ’80s, she could play music and videos for you whenever you asked for them. Was Magic Screen the original iPod?

Herman: You know, I never thought about it like that! Well, I’m a trendsetter, so it makes sense.

MTV: Absolutely. Unfortunately, with your iPod you can’t play connect the dots. Also, Jambi the Genie is going to be here, and we all remember that you need to ask, “Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney ho?” when you ask him for a wish. What does that phrase mean, translated into English?

Herman: It is translatable but, you know, not on MTV.

MTV: Well, we also remember that Miss Yvonne had a little bit of a crush on you, but in “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” Dottie seemed to be the love of your life. There was even a time when you were married briefly to a bowl of fruit salad.

Herman: Yes. We kept it out of the press, but that ended in a messy divorce.

MTV: Did it really? Did the fruit salad take you to the cleaners?

Herman: Oh, there was coconut everywhere.

MTV: So tragic! Who holds the key to your heart at this point?

Herman: Really, I can’t say. I really don’t want to play favorites and mention anybody here. Then everyone starts getting into a big fight — hair-pulling, you know?

MTV: Well, I loved the show, and there’s one thing I definitely want to ask you …

Herman: Really? Why don’t you marry it?

MTV: I would love to marry the show! Can we arrange a little ceremony, maybe you could officiate?

Herman: Maybe, yeah, when I get my preacher’s license in the mail. Not!

MTV: What’s your bicycle from “Adventure” up to these days? Did you take it to get here today?

Herman: Are you kidding? I had a driver and a car.

MTV: Well, I hope the car at least had some cool Pee-wee embellishments to it, like the bike did.

Herman: No, it didn’t, no. It was just a Buick Lacrosse.

MTV: Do you still eat Mr.T cereal for breakfast?

Herman: No, they don’t make it anymore, I don’t think.

MTV: When I was a kid, I also had a foil ball. I had to stop it, though, because it started to reek of tuna and whatever else I had eaten with foil before I put it in the ball.

Herman: You didn’t get the memo about washing the foil? The kids probably used to say it was your stink ball.

MTV: Yeah, pretty much. My mom made me throw it out. How big is your foil ball these days?

Herman: That’s kind of personal. I’m glad you asked that question, because the foil ball is the biggest improvement in the show from the original show. The foil ball is about [waist high] in the original show, and I’m not going to say how big it is now; I’d like people to come and see for themselves. But let’s just say: It’s big.

MTV: There’s an actor going around Hollywood named Paul Reubens. He’s been in “Mystery Men” and “Blow,” and some people think he might be related to you or ripping off your act. Have you ever met this guy?

Herman: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

MTV: The resemblance is uncanny.

Herman: Poor guy. I mean, lucky guy!

MTV: I heard there are going to be references to some modern things in the stage show. What has come on the scene in the last couple years that you’re eager to give us your thoughts on?

Herman: Well, we have a Paypal reference and ShamWow; some modern people’s songs. I can’t really say who, because they all cost a lot of money, and we haven’t paid the money yet.

MTV: It all went into the foil ball budget.

Herman: Yeah, the aluminum foil budget alone for this show was staggering.

MTV: Well, good luck with the show, Pee-wee. We’re really excited to see it, and hope it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Herman: AHHHHHHH!!!!