You have a long history with the Pee-wee Herman character, having worked on both Pee-wee’s Playhouse and Big Top Pee-wee. How did you start working together?
I originally met Paul Reubens when I was working on 9 to 5. The camera operator on that movie, Chuck Minsky, said he was producing this group of comedians doing a kids show for adults and they really needed some help with makeup. They were showing it to the press, so he asked me to come that night and told me not to worry about the guy who plays Pee-wee because he does his own makeup. I helped the Miss Yvonne character get herself dialed in, then I helped the guy playing Jambi and worked out a little fun-something for that night. When I went out to watch the show, I was thinking, “How are they ever going to do anything with this thing?” I didn’t understand it at all but also thought somebody’s going to love it. Over the years, I stayed friends with Paul. We’d go to parties together. He would come to parties at my house. Cut to he’s making Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and he didn’t call me to do it. He was told I was busy and didn’t know he could call me directly! I told him I would have gotten off that show to come do his movie. Then a few years later while I was shooting Beetlejuice, Paul came to visit since Tim Burton also directed Big Adventure. He asked me to do his next movie and told me it was going to be a circus movie. I told him yes, I would love to do it, but he said I would have to do the TV show first. I wound up doing three seasons of Pee-wee’s Playhouse which was quite fun, I must say. I won an Emmy for that, which was pretty awesome.
How did you come to work on Big Holiday? >> Pick up the Spring 2016 Issue for Ve Neill’s complete interview.
Words Shannon Levy
Photos courtesy Netflix