7 Bad Ass Comedians -- Including Dave Chappelle, Richard Pryor, George Carlin -- Who Refused to Sell Out
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It was a beautiful run -- until 1991, when Reubens was arrested in a Florida adult theater for public masturbation, vilified by the media and dropped by CBS. Certainly it was a case of revisionism; though he was ostensibly making a children’s show, the Pee-wee Herman stand-up show originated with very adult jokes -- sex was a main topic -- which he toned down later before making his film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Public masturbation is illegal, of course, but he was in an adult theater, not a park -- if anywhere’s appropriate to do it, it’s there. But the puritanical public got its way, and Reubens slipped into obscurity for many years. Last year, though, "Pee-Wee’s Playhouse" was revived for an enormously successful Broadway comeback, and he’s currently working on a corollary film with Hollywood comedy hotshot Judd Apatow.
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd is an associate editor at AlterNet and a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor. Formerly the executive editor of The FADER, her work has appeared in VIBE, SPIN, New York Times and various other magazines and websites.