How Pee-Wee Herman Made Hand Washing Fun

Andrew Dalton
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For years -- when I considered myself a part-time punk and part-time poet -- I was proud of my scuzziness. I wanted black English teeth and four days' oil on my hair. And hand-washing? Pffft. Bourgeois bunk. Save it for the suburbanites.

Of course, I had to tone down the gunk once I wanted to attract actual ladies. Then came babies and diapers. It's amazing how fast you change your mind about hand-washing when you've got another human's poop under your fingernails. 

At mommy-and-me class (they let in dads with fake ID), they taught us to sing Happy Birthday twice while hand-washing to know when you're done. Which bored me to tears. I hate Happy Birthday, even when it's sung to me. And the other option they gave, The Alphabet Song, is a drag too.

Then I remembered Pee-wee Herman.

It came back to me in a rush of memory one day over my sink with the toddler: Pee-wee Herman's hand-washing song from the original early 80s stage show that turned into an HBO special (pardon the shoddy video at the link; it's apparently the only one available). Pee-wee sang it with Captain Carl, played by the late great Phil Hartman, who would go onto Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons.

The lyrics are a nice mix of sweet and twisted. Remember to sing them twice while washing!:

A sailor travels to many lands, any place he pleases, and he always remembers to wash his hands, so he don't get no diseases.

It made the boring old mitt-scrubbing tolerable. The kid would shout "diseases!" as loud as she could.

I know, the urge for jokes is too much to bear: Pee-wee, hands, dude was busted for public indecency at a porn theater. Give him a break. He was always in on the joke. It was never really ironic. The early act was full of dirty jokes. Jambi the Genie gets a pair of hands in the mail and declares "There's been something I've been wanting to do with these for a long time." Pee-wee's puppet cohorts missed no chance to look up skirts. And now the act is back on Broadway, though from the looks of it it resembles the safe late-80s TV show over the stage show.  Which is fine. Since selling out and going bourgeois, I want everything kid-friendly.

How do you get your toddler to scrub hands?



Image via Facebook


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