Where are the weirdos in normal spaces? The death of Paul Ruebens, best known for his character Pee-wee Herman, took me back to my childhood in the early '90s, when weirdos didn't necessarily rule pop culture, but were a subversive texture woven into it. The Adventures of Pete & Pete and Ren & Stimpy aired on Nickelodeon; Tim Burton's gothy and campy Batman was a blockbuster hit; there's never been another Who Framed Roger Rabbit; and I wasn't allowed to watch The Simpsons or Beavis & Butt-head back then, but an undeniable pair of surreal stupidity on network and cable TV.
Pee-wee's Playhouse, its reruns slotted between Saturday morning cartoons, feels especially wild to me, in retrospect. Nothing else on TV understood kid logic like this half-hour show — that you could be silly, but demanding of attention; that inanimate objects had lives of their own; that the world of adults was exciting, yet comically strange. Ruebens exploded the inner child, but specifically the ones whose imagination went beyond dolls and toys.
I often say these shows and movies warped my brain, but, the truth is, my brain was probably already warped! Pee-wee, the Petes and everyone else not only validated my weirdness but encouraged it. So it made me wonder where all that weirdness went. Yes, we can all go to our own corners of streaming and YouTube — Regular Show captures that spirit of silliness and Adventure Time grows more surreal as the shows progresses (and, honestly, is not for kids but teens and adults). Now that I've been a dad for a few years, I've noticed that childrens' programming favors sweetness or winky-ness — not bad attributes, really, just less adventurous. There was something special about flipping through the humdrum of cable TV — cooking shows, news and Leave It to Beaver reruns — and stumbling upon a talking recliner or a catchy song about log or "pipe!" The weirdos were all mixed up with the normies. —Lars Gotrich
P.S.: I'm on NPR's All Songs Considered this week, sharing new songs by Meurtrières, Sally Anne Morgan and Irreversible Entanglements. Listen wherever you podcast!
Carol, "Passing Through"
Stomp Talk Modstone, "Hello, New World"
dadá Joãozinho, "Cuidado! (feat. Alceu, Bebé)"
Immy Owusu, "The World is Here for You"
Sally Anne Morgan, "Awake"
Ragana, "Desolation's Flower"
Luggage, "Hand is Bad"
Buck Curran & Adele H, "13th Mountain (Bruce Cockburn cover)"
Jeff Tobias, "Snow"
Sami, "Aydin's Theme"
Yungwebster, "Stay FOCUSSSS [fast+reg]"
Blakmoth, "Vide Étouffant"
Anti-God Hand, "Barge of Light"
Stateside, "Crash Course (Nosedive to Nowhere)"
Bas Jan, "At the Counter"
Cherry Glazerr, "Soft Like a Flower"
Miss España, "Marte Rojo"
Tomas Fujiwara, "Solace"
Hella, "Biblical Violence (Demo)"
fantasma, "Futuro em suas costas"
Kym Amps, "You Love Me"
The Julies, "My Heaven is a Dance Floor"
Samuel S.C., "Empty & Then Some"
Lee Gamble, "She's Not"
Aditya Prakash, "ISOLASHUN"
The Innocence Mission, "Love That Boy (Karen's Early Demo)"
Peter Gutteridge, "Planet Phrom"
RASKOL, "Open Door"
Headcheese, "I Wanna Be Special (Forces)"
Messa, "Hellhound on My Trail (Robert Johnson cover)"