With his too-tight retro suit, his immaculately coiffed hair, his gleaming red bicycle and his laugh – that unmistakable, uncontainable manic giggle – he became one of the most iconic pop-culture characters of the 1980s.
Now with a new film and TV show in the works, Pee-wee Herman is making a comeback – and he's bringing his boyishly mischievous antics to the newly branded NorthWest Comedy Fest.
"I want edgy, coming-up things that you'll never see anywhere else, those moments where you go, 'My God, that just happened and I was there.' Pee-wee Herman encapsulates that," says executive producer Dave Fortune, a long-time local events promoter who rekindled the fest after the previous comedy fest organizers packed it in. "He's revered within the comedy industry. There are comedians who are committing to come to the festival simply because of Pee-wee."
But Pee-wee Herman isn't the only big name to brighten the February drear at this year's fest. Among the other comedians performing are two-time Grammy nominee Patton Oswalt – best known for his starring roles on The King of Queens and as Remy in Ratatouille – as well as Kids in the Hall legend Dave Foley, Mad TV's Bobby Lee, 30 Rock favourite Judah Friedlander, three-time WWE champ turned funnyman Mick Foley, The Tonight Show regular Natasha Leggero and many more.
The fest is also offering several other offbeat events, including a screening of Pee-wee's Big Adventure at the Rio, and tapping into hugely popular comedy podcasts, with live tapings of the hockey-themed Funnier Than Gretzky, and a Biltmore show by locals Dave Shumka and Graham Clark of Stop Podcasting Yourself that features comedy star Paul F. Tompkins and has become one of the week's hottest sellers.
"Technology has taken comedians and forced them into a genre that has actually become quite successful, and it's easy to digest comedy in a way that isn't just sitting down and watching a guy with a mic on stage," says Mr. Fortune, who says this year's fest is already 90 per cent sold. "It's not that any more. It can be far more interactive. And I find that completely amazing."