From the Archives: The Pee-wee Herman Muppet Magazine edition…


By Shawn Robare

It’s been awhile since I’ve waded into my personal archive of old magazine back issues and yesterday while moving something in the closet I saw a stack of them piled high and decided to scan through a few.  Next thing I knew I was organizing a hundred misc issues in stacks all around the office, flipping through every other one looking for fun stuff that I hadn’t seen in years.  I knew that if I completely gave into the urge I’d be sitting amongst them all night, so I decided to pick a stack and find something to write about.  At least then I’d feel like I did something productive with the time.  The stack I ended up choosing contained my entire collection of old Muppet Magazine issues, a publication that I’ve written about in the past (when they covered Weird Al, breakdancing, and Mr. T)  and one that I love dearly.

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While looking through the various issues, the one that kept going back to was the Winter 1987 issue that featured Pee-wee Herman.  Pee-wee’s been on my brain lately since he’s been filming his new Netflix film and I’ve been dying to see some footage cut together from it.  I’m really curious to see if he and the crew can recapture the magic of his 80s and 90s era flick.  I’ll probably love it regardless, I mean hell, I’m one of those fans that unironically loves Big Top Pee-wee, but it’s so rare for studios and performers to rekindle that magic when there are so many years between projects (for me Tron: Legacy and Mad Max Fury Road were some of the only ones that managed to do it successfully.)  I know that Rebuens has had a really great run with his Broadway revival of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, but I’ve yet to see it.

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Anyway, though I’m gonna take a deeper look at the Pee-wee interview in the Winter 1987 issue, it wasn’t the first time the magazine featured him, well kind of.  The previous Fall ’87issue had a pin-up of Kermit…er….Ker-mee Herman…

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I love that they did these parody poster pin-ups in the latter issues of the publication (I have a Kermit as He-Man, with full mullet, that I adore.)  Is it weird that I can totally hear Kermit doing a Pee-wee impression while singing Tequila and laughing in my head?  Also, seconds before this Miss Piggy stepped up to him in biker leathers and said: “I say you give him to me first!”  Anyway, back to the issue at hand…

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Though I want to concentrate on the Pee-wee interview, there’s a lot of fun stuff in this issue (I mean holy heck, there’s a Johnathan “Weekend At Bernie’s” Silverman interview for crying out loud.)  Here’s a couple of ads that stood out for me….

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Before he won out hearts as the cocksure Buck in The Great Outdoors, Chris Young was a pitchman for Kool-Aid Koolers.  So it wasn’t just the Jett’s pimping the Kool-Aid branded juice boxes back in the day.  Someone should have told him that only Cosby can pull off sweaters like that, and NO ONE can pull off Kool-Aid colored pants.  No one.  The other ad I wanted to highlight is awesome because of the great action-packed painted artwork for one of my favorite cartoons from the 80s, the Silverhawks…

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There were actually two variations of the same ad in the magazine, this one announcing the show coming to TV and another with the same art announcing the release of the first arc of episodes on VHS.  Guess this was one of those series that they had a marketing blitz ready to go!

Anyway, getting back to Pee-wee, the main feature in this issue is a 1987 interview by Kermit the Frog (or, um, Fred Newman)…

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I love that they chose to frame this article in a way where Pee-wee is living in the playhouse even when not filming, and very much in the spirit of the Muppets, the puppet characters from the show are all included in the interview.  I’m sure this can be cynically viewed as pandering to kids, but I see it as preserving the magic of the world these shows exist in.  Much in the same way that I don’t care for the hipster jokes about Muppets breaking the 4th wall to realize that they’re puppets (imagine the plethora of “art” pieces featuring x-ray images of Kermit with a human arm bone inside of him), I think there’s something to be respected about keeping the magic of a show like Pee-wee’s playhouse alive.

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Even though there’s nothing Earth-shattering in this interview, I love the thought of Kermit hanging out in the playhouse and talking about Christmas parties with Pee-wee.  Also, I imagine that the secret word of the day on Kermit’s visit was: “Yaaaayyyyyyy”.  So every time something said “Yaaaayyyyyy” everyone else would have to yell “Yaaaayyyyyy”.  It would be insane….

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  • Muppet Magazine. God how I loved subscribing to this. And how I hate not having my copies anymore. There’s a hardback collection of them now, isn’t there?

    Also, speaking of Chris Young…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKa0ETdQhjA

    • First, whoa! Been forever since I saw that Captain Power commercial.

      Yeah, so glad I was able to put this collection of magazines together. There is a hardcover edition, but it’s also from the 80s and out of print. I have that around here somewhere too…

  • Paxton Holley

    Yeah, I remember Chris Young from PCU. He looks so young. How many damn shirts is he wearing? And is his watch OVER his cuff? OMFG, you were amazing, 1980s.

    • Lol, yeah, at least two shirts AND a sweater. Kool-Aod Koolers were like drinking liquid nitrogen, you needed to bundle up. Also, watch over the cuff is so, what? Classy? Terrible? Both?

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  • No_thriller

    “…secret word of the day on Kermit’s visit was: “Yaaaayyyyyyy”
    HAHAHA. I actually laughed out loud at this idea. Insanity ensues.
    Great post!

    • Ha, thanks! I was envisioning an endless loop of that (someone needs to make a gif…)