Further thoughts on Pee-Wee Herman

3 days ago I posted some videos of Pee-Wee Herman, and I have been thinking about his character.

The name Pee-Wee is not without importance. The name Pee-Wee supports his childlike character.  He is small, and harmless.  Such youthful behavior makes him non-threatening, so the audience indulges his behavior as they would a child.  The silent film star Harry Langdon had a similar quality.

In the wrestling video, Pee-Wee gets in the ring with a buffed out pro-wrestler and plays out his schtick.  But the wrestler can only get in his face.  If the wrestler were to knock him down, it would be like hitting a child.  He would be picking on someone half his weight.  When Pee-Wee mocks the wrestler, we enjoy his fearlessness.  We would love to say such things to the guy, but we don’t have the nerve.  It is one of the clown’s age old priveleges, to ridicule the powerful, to say the things we won’t.

One of the basic concepts of the clown is to not follow the rules of educated society. Children don’t follow the rules of society simply because they have not learned them yet. It gives them a license for such behavior, and is one of the ways to begin the creation of a funny character.

Comic Obsession

I must recommend the blog by Mark Kennedy, “The Temple of the Seven Golden Camels.” It is packed full of images and information from an active story artist. His post about comic obsession is particularly interesting to me. He describes the development of the horse Maximus in the film “Tangled”, including the inspiration from Tommy Lee Jone’s character from “The Fugitive.”

Comic Obsession

It is easy to think of comic obsession in cartoons. Wile E. Coyote’s obsession with the Roadrunner, Sylvester with Tweety, Scrat with the acorn.

If we consider the old expression “Nobody likes a quitter” to be true, then the inverse, “Everybody likes a character who will not quit no matter what” would also be true. Such characters earn our admiration.

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