Fred Willard, who was arrested for allegedly masturbating in a movie theater on Wednesday (July 18), may not suffer the full-on career derailment that rocked Pee-wee Herman’s life when he did the same thing in 1991. And that’s why Willard should vigorously thank Pee-wee (real name Paul Reubens) for breaking the ice when it comes to public masturbation.
Willard’s already been axed from his gig as host for a new PBS “Antiques Roadshow” spinoff called “Market Warrior,” but he’s unlikely to find himself completely out of work or be vilified in the press (at least it hasn’t happened yet). And as for the large-scale negative reaction that had parents calling for Pee-wee’s head (ahem), it isn’t developing.
Pee-wee was first and foremost an children’s entertainer (And yes, he started out using that character for decidedly adult fare, but ended up a Saturday morning staple), so when he was arrested parents were outraged.
Willard’s a character actor who, though he has appeared in some fare aimed at kids (“Betsy’s Kindergarten Adventures,” “The Wizards of Waverly Place” and voice-over work in animated projects like “Wall-E” and “Kim Possible”), he’s also got plenty of adult stuff on his resume, too, like “Anchorman,” “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” and the intriguingly-titled animation “The Adventures of Captain Crossdresser.”
There’s also no scuzzy mug shot (at least not yet). When Pee-wee was arrested, a mug shot of a disheveled 39-year-old Reubens sporting long hair and grey stubble and looking pretty creepy didn’t help one bit.
Also, since Pee-wee did it first, we’ve been there/done that with a sex scandal in this form before. And he did eventually get his career back on track. It may have taken two decades, but the guy is back — guesting on “30 Rock,” showing up in “SNL” skits and even staging a new “Pee-wee Herman Show” on Broadway in 2010.