Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Celebrate 30 years of Pee-wee’s Playhouse with today’s secret word: Innuendo

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

When Pee-wee’s Playhouse began its five-year run on CBS Saturday mornings in 1986, it was already a given the series would be considerably toned down from its former life as a risqué stage show. Children’s programming, after all, doesn’t tend to feature the title character hypnotizing women and then having them remove their dresses. Despite the shift to a generally wholesome and even educational children’s TV series, creator Paul Reubens maintained the subversive spirit of his character—especially when it came to the kind of sexual innuendos, double entendres, and PG-rated scatological humor that kids pick up on. YouTuber superjehovahnova decided to piece together a montage of many of these moments throughout the show’s run, and in honor of the series premiere—30 years ago today—it seems fitting to remember the many winking nods to Pee-wee’s adult-themed roots.

Many of the bits involve supporting players in the Pee-wee’s Playhouse universe: Laurence Fishburne’s Cowboy Curtis, guest star Jimmy Smits as a Conky repairman, and so on. But the overwhelming majority of them include Lynne Marie Stewart’s Miss Yvonne, the series’ repository for both good-natured lessons about life and an ongoing childlike curiosity about sex, albeit one that often shaded into explicit references.

While Reba the mail carrier (played by Law & Order stalwart S. Epatha Merkerson) gets nervous about Pee-wee strapping on a rubber glove (and also winds up on the receiving end of an up-skirt shot, thanks to Pee-wee’s doctor-headband mirror), other characters often communicate above Pee-wee’s head, with little more than a wink to the camera to signify what’s transpired. The weirdly innocent youthful nature of the character made these moments strangely palatable for young and old alike, even if subsequent setbacks to Reubens’ public image tarnished them later on. But the sweet spirit of Pee-wee’s Playhouse endures, innuendos and all—a tradition his recent Netflix movie proudly carries on.