Like many of those who've seen the new batch of "Smurfs" movies, Paul Reubens has an ambivalent relationship with the property's insistently perky theme song. "My experience for a few months was I couldn't get the song out of my mind. It's like an earworm," Reubens said in an interview.
There's only one difference -- Reubens stars in the movies. In "The Smurfs 2," which opened last weekend in the U.S. and many countries around the world, the man long known as Pee-wee Herman reprises his voice role as Jokey Smurf, the punch-line-dispensing blue thing from the candy-colored land.
As with other well-known voices doing surprise bit parts (Shaq, anyone?), Reubens' voice flies by quickly in the new movie. Which he thinks is odd, because he plays a character that would be particularly suited to a comedy.
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"I can't figure out why there isn't more Jokey Smurf," he said. "My theory is that it's because of the times. Jokey Smurf in the cartoon would carry around a package that was a bomb. He'd give it other Smurfs as a present and then it would blow up." Reubens added, "He's a victim of the times."
That's a little frustrating to the actor known so well for his vocal dexterity, but he said he hopes to get another crack at it. "If there's a '3,' I'd hope I'd be featured more. If anyone from the studio asks, you could say I would enjoy having a larger part," he added, perhaps only half-kidding.
The actor will stay busy regardless of his status in Smurf Village. Reubens said that a director has been chosen for a long-gestating Pee-wee movie (Judd Apatow has been on board to produce), though he declined to identify the filmmaker.
And though, yes, we've been hearing about this movie for the better part of three years, Reubens said he believes that the script is ready and financing has come together. The movie, he said, will likely shoot next year, continuing a comic tradition that many of us '80's kids remember well from "Pee-wee's Big Adventure."
Also on tap is a new TV show -- potentially though not necessarily an update on "Pee-wee's Playhouse" and its menagerie of Conky the Robot and other sidekicks. Reubens wouldn't offer more details but said an announcement was "imminent" and that the show will be on the air in 2014.
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"Short of something unforeseen like the studio going out of business, I think it's very likely both these projects will happen next year," he said.
Reubens, of course, was out of the public eye for years after some, er, PR troubles, before bringing "Playhouse" back as a stage show in Los Angeles in 2010. If your dose of the bowtied-one back then wasn't enough, he said the stage show -- which also played on Broadway -- is being discussed for a longer-term run at a touring location.
All this Pee-weeness has put the actor, now in his 60s, in a happy state of mind. "It feels great," he said. "I woke up one day and said it's time. This is what I want to do next."