Christmas/Holiday Movies: “Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special”

Remember how I said I’d love to write more about Pee-wee Herman?

Well, here I am, doing just that!

Check out Pee-wee Herman’s official website!

Christmas (and the holiday season in general) is, obviously, about giving to others, especially those less fortunate than us. It’s also a time to reunite with friends and family. Mix generosity with friends and family, and you have the perfect recipe for craziness and fun. And who has more crazy fun than Pee-wee Herman?

So “come on in, and pull yourself up a chair,” because it’s time for…

Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)!

I do not own any of the following images or videos!

Here’s a treat: a promo for the special from 1988! Check it out:

This is the perfect year to watch it, too: to get yourself ready for the premiere of Pee-wee’s Big Holiday in March on Netflix!

If you like Pee-wee Herman, you’ll love Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special! Not one bit of the show’s trademark anarchic insanity or subversive nature was sacrificed to create this double-length episode.

This special has everything you’d expect to see in a traditional Christmas special: guest stars galore, seasonal music, almost every Christmas/holiday/winter symbol you can think of, and even a reminder of why people celebrate Christmas in the first place.

If you need something to make you laugh, something to show to kids, or something to make you stand out when it’s your turn to pick in the Christmas movie marathon, look no further than Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special!

You’re invited to the coolest Christmas party EVER!

You’re invited to the coolest Christmas party EVER!

As with anything Pee-wee Herman-related, if you’ve never seen Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special before, it’s best to go into it without knowing too much about it. Think of it this way: would opening Christmas presents be as fun if you knew what every single gift was beforehand? The answer is no. The surprise is part of the fun!

Go watch Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (which is streaming on Netflix), and then come back here to read the rest of this post.

Go. Now. Don’t worry: I’ll wait.

Spoilers lurk beyond this point!

If you’re still reading this, I’m going to assume it’s because you’ve already seen Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special and want to compare notes with me.

I really love this special. (“Then why don’t you marry it?”) Less than a minute in, in the midst of a picturesque winter scene, there’s a brief gag with the camera overshooting the title card and quickly adjusting with the appropriate cartoon sound effect. It’s such a small detail that you could literally blink and miss it. That’s a common theme in anything Pee-wee Herman-related: small details that add to already-funny sequences and that you may not catch on the first viewing.

As much as I would’ve adored Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special as a kid, by discovering it as a teenager, I had the unique experience of being able to watch it for the first time and simultaneously enjoy all of its levels of humor. I was able to laugh at gags like Little Richard falling on the ice with a hilarious scream––– landing on a pillow strapped to his bottom––– and also do a double take during sequences like Miss Yvonne explaining why she put mistletoe in her Christmas tree-style hairdo.

This pretty much sums up the tone of the special.

This pretty much sums up the tone of the special.

As with anything Pee-wee Herman does, you go from “Wait, what?” to totally on board with every absurd twist in an instant. A serious choral song suddenly turning into a grooving choreographed dance number involving sequins? Yeah! A crate with a real, live human being in it being delivered by mistake because “The White House” was misread as “The Playhouse”? Let’s have her sing a song before she goes! Pee-wee Herman suddenly being an amazing ice skater? Now for that, you need a stunt double.



Another great part of this special is the many, many running gags: from Pee-wee Herman getting fruitcake after fruitcake from his friends, to Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello working tirelessly to make a thousand Christmas cards for Pee-wee, to Dinah Shore singing a super-extended version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” None of the running gags is dropped: they all have fun and clever payoffs.

“And I want a Netflix subscription so I can watch ‘Pee-wee’s Big Holiday’…”

“And I want a Netflix subscription so I can watch ‘Pee-wee’s Big Holiday’…”

Speaking of guest stars, oh my goodness, Pee-wee Herman got a heck of a roster for this special! Pee-wee’s Playhouse is packed with people who want in on the fun, to the point where Whoopi Goldberg can’t be squeezed in… sort of. Even the briefest appearances get at least one funny moment.

As is always the case in Pee-wee’s Playhouse, the cast is incredibly diverse in so many ways. I love this show’s approach to diversity: they don’t comment on the fact that they’re a diverse group. Everyone’s just there, having a good time together.

There are always movies and TV specials this time of year that will make us claim there’s something in our eyes, because we’re definitely not crying. But I can’t think of many holiday-themed movies or TV specials that are as much pure, unbridled, non-stop, wacky fun as Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special. You’ll be smiling from the stop-motion opening right through until after the credits!

How many days of Christmas can there be?!

How many days of Christmas can there be?!

As a bonus, watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special will help tide you over until the premiere of Pee-wee’s Big Holiday in March on Netflix!

In the meantime, keep up with Pee-wee Herman by following him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

I know, I know: it’s too bad we have to wait until next… YEAR!



Thank you for reading,
Jamie Lee
… “That’s my name, don’t wear it out!”

Okay, here’s a Pee-wee Herman-related bonus: when I was at Northwestern University, I participated in Dance Marathon, in which we dance for 30 hours for charity, every year. To celebrate my fourth and final year, Dance Marathon asked me to show off my best dance move.

So, in the spirit of giving this holiday season, I’m going to give all of you a good laugh. Here you go…

4 thoughts on “Christmas/Holiday Movies: “Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special”

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