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WTF Moments: The breakfast sequence in Pee-wee's Big Adventure proves Pee-wee is a psychopath

By Brian Silliman
Pee-wee Herman eats breakfast (Pee-wee's Big Adventure)

Breakfast, by reputation, is the most important meal of the day. It's also the easiest meal to skip, because sometimes you may have pushed the ol' snooze button too many times. You may not always have the time to grab breakfast before going to work, let alone cook yourself a full breakfast of pancakes, toast, bacon, and eggs.

The solutions to this issue, if you're really someone who needs to begin a full day with such a large breakfast, are multiple in both scope and scale. On one end, you could cook something the night before and then microwave it in the morning. All the way over on the "absolutely crazy" side of this spectrum would be the invention of a breakfast-making contraption — not just a mere machine, but an entire mechanism, one that would take over every area of your kitchen and would cause Rube Goldberg himself to say, "Wow, that's kind of impressive, but also why?" Mr. Goldberg would be dialing 911 while saying that.

This is Pee-wee Herman's solution to the breakfast issue, as seen in Pee-wee's Big Adventure. Early on in the film, we get a glimpse of Pee-wee's morning routine: Upon waking, he jumps on his bed, lifts some very small weights (badly), and then plays with a couple of his toys for a few seconds, playing out scenes of murder. He then takes a fireman's pole down to the ground level of his inexplicably large home, and he must have bought the pole from Adam West, because it magically puts him into his Pee-wee fatigues.

A side note here: This is Pee-Wee Herman's main residence, but we also know that he has an immense "playhouse" where he goes to screw off for most of his day. How exactly does this maniac earn the money with which to afford and maintain not one but two expansive homes that are chock-full of expensive lunacy? What service does he provide?

I'm getting off-topic, but that's the problem when you try to apply any kind of logic to Pee-wee Herman. The character might be the most "WTF-worthy" creation in human history, and working out the "logistics" of Pee-Wee's breakfast machine alone puts my own precarious mental health in danger. Still, I carry on. The giant contraption I use to analyze WTF moments has already been set off.

Upon hitting the bottom floor of his McMansion, Pee-wee says hello to his dog before he begins the cycle of breakfast. The incredibly complex organism churns to life, bringing Mr. Herman's breakfast to life in no time at all. Sure, it uses the ceiling as a vital part of the pancake process, but hey, innovation, I guess.

What does Pee-wee do during the time he's saving by having his breakfast created via torture device? He brushes his teeth and pretends to have rabies, and then uses tape to make funny faces for his own amusement. It bears repeating that he has no discernible job, so he's in no rush to go anywhere. While this happens — and while one of Danny Elfman's most bonkers compositions plays — the breakfast machine has finished its grim work.

Pee-wee sits down to eat his breakfast, which is very unsettlingly arranged like a face on a plate. (Did the machine do that? Is it even capable? We get no answers.) Then Pee-wee takes the time to butter his toast with a comically large knife, before his meal, which he's named "Mr. Breakfast," asks if it can have some Mr. T cereal. Pee-wee dumps a bunch of Mr. T cereal, which appears out of nowhere, onto Mr. Breakfast.

Of course, a logical question to ask would be why wasn't the Mr. T cereal a part of the machine, if that's such an important part of the ritual? Maybe the cereal just came out, and Pee-wee hasn't had time to add in the proper mechanisms. Still, the question of why the machine doesn't butter toast remains up in the air.

And now, after all that, we get to the real kick in the pants, the true WTF at the heart of this baffling escapade. Pee-wee eats two — precisely two — pieces of the Mr. T cereal. He chews both pieces for a maddeningly gratuitous amount of time. He pats his mouth with a napkin … and that's it. He gets up and leaves.

Aside from the two bits of Mr. T cereal, Pee-Wee eats none of what his machine just created. He doesn't even eat the toast that we just watched him butter. He gets up and leaves his home, and we never go back there again. Mr. Breakfast sits there covered in cereal for the rest of the movie, slowly dying.

These are the actions of a psychopath. Seriously, W … T … F?

To be clear, I am not saying that Paul Reubens, the gifted actor who portrays Pee-wee, is anything other than a national treasure. He's no killer. Pee-wee, though? Pee-wee probably has a third house, which is where he keeps the bodies. This house probably contains a basement full of guns that would make Eugene Tackleberry blush.

To my knowledge, we don't see Pee-wee eat anything else in this movie. The only other instance I can recall of seeing Pee-wee eat anything at all is when he and his pals have a sleepover in an episode of Pee-wee's Playhouse and they have some late-night fruit salad. Pee-wee loves the fruit salad so much that he marries it. That's not a joke — it actually happens on the show. Here's hoping that the fruit salad is ready for a rough ride, because it married a serial killer.

The real-life answer to WTF-ery of the breakfast machine sequence is that director Tim Burton wanted a breakfast machine in the movie, the end. His reasons are unknown. This may satisfy some viewers, but what are the in-universe reasons?

I never get past this. What kind of inhuman monster does what Pee-wee does here? What kind of deranged psychotic builds a machine to make him a full breakfast, uses it, gives the resulting breakfast a name, covers it (possibly killing it) with Mr. T cereal, and then leaves it there to rot after two bites of the cereal, something the machine did not even have a part in the creation of?

A serial killer would do that. A serial killer who uses cereal to murder semi-sentient breakfast creations.

We've had some doozies in this series, but this may be the one true WTF moment to rule them all. Many people over the years have tried to pass this all off as just being a part of the fun, part of the whimsy of Pee-wee. I reject that thinking.

If there is a logic behind Pee-wee Herman's breakfast antics, then it is the logic of a person who must be put in a straitjacket without delay. If there is no logic to the life and death of Mr. Breakfast, then WTF is the point of anything at all?

All of this is what happens when the cameras are on him — I'd hate to know what Mr. Herman does to food when no one's filming. He might burn the pointless Mr. Breakfast alive, and the fruit salad would have him in divorce court faster than you can say Large Marge.

Seriously, WTF, WTF, WTF? This one has broken me. I'm dead now. Pee-wee Herman is the careless, boy-man Dr. Frankenstein of breakfast.

Tim Burton wanted a breakfast machine … and Reubens is an honorable man. Pee-wee Herman, contrarily, is a psychopath.