"The Adventures of Pete and Pete” has been the subject of so many nostalgia-driven articles. For an internet writer of my age and demographic, it is almost a rite of passage to exalt how poignant and hilarious their show was for a generation. It’s part of folklore now, a cliché – even informing the way scenesters freaking dress nowadays.
I’m prefacing with this to suggest the difficulty it is to properly offer tribute to a show that has meant so much to so many. It really is a cultural touchstone – and with that comes the burden of topping so much ink and finding my own unique spin. What else could be possibly said?
Still, despite how universally regarded "Pete and Pete" is, the storytelling of the show itself feels uniquely personal. "Pete and Pete" is one of the few shows I own on DVD and, as far as shows from my youth, it stands alone. I am not running off to purchase seasons of "Bobby’s World" or "Dog City" any time soon, if you know what I mean. So when I learned about the cast of "Pete and Pete" reuniting for a Q&A at the Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan last weekend, I jumped at the chance.
Jumped through a few hoops is more like it. Is it overly naïve of me to say that the way Ticketmaster operates is cumbersome and irritating? I had no idea. Not once, but twice (for both of last Friday’s shows) I waited patiently for the time of sale to begin. As soon as you do it, it’s as if there is some random lotto or magic queue formula that lets some IPs get access, while others are denied. No matter what. And Ticketmaster’s phone line is completely insufferable (“automated piece of shit”). I mention this to underscore how eager I was to see "Pete and Pete" live – I don’t go to shows often. At least, not to the point where I’m watching seconds countdown to 12:00 P.M. and franticly clicking "refresh" in a frenzy. The way Ticketmaster does it just seems undemocratic and senseless.
Luckily, sometimes in life there are individuals that redeem cruel, unfeeling online box offices and rip us from our despair. In this case, that individual is named Mike Anton. You’ve got to understand, my anger over not getting tickets to this show resulted in me impulse buying a ticket to Atlanta. Atlanta. So you can imagine my glee when Manton decided he’d rather celebrate a birthday on a Friday night than go to a show at Bowery alone. He’s a good man, that Manton. Either that, or a severe social drunk (I’m thinking maybe both). [Ed. note - why are they mutually exclusive?]
In any event, I scooted off to New York City last Friday, fully ready for a night of nostalgia.
The turning radius of a Fung Wah bus is simply amazing. However, this amazement is not grounded in adoration, per se, but real, horrifying astonishment. They exceed expectations solely through their inadvertent ability to keep their customers alive. Frankly, I’m shocked we never tipped over at any points during my rain-soaked voyage into Manhattan. We drove down an off-ramp at one point and, I swear, it was like we were doing the sort of double helix 360 turn you’d only think plausible in Rollercoaster Tycoon.
Entering the Bowery, I immediately knew the crowd. Approachable, friendly people… but unmistakably of the hipster variety. Why did we love this show so much? Why did we still care? Were we drawn to the show because of our sensibility, or did the show have a hand in shaping that sensibility in the first place? With the high levels of light irony and chill detachment in the air, it felt as if we were all aliens coming back to the mother ship, a different kind of reunion for the Facebook generation.
The pre-show really floored me. I’m 26 now, but watching so many clips of Nona, Pit Stain, Wayne the Pain and Adam West – it really brought me back. Standing there, I was reminded of how much time has passed since I was 8. I think one of the reasons "Pete and Pete" has stayed with me is their style and outlook is so distinct. It really leaves a time stamp with you. While I think my relationship with the show has changed, I’ve learned to appreciate the delicate edges, and there is so denying its particular brand of comedic absurdity:
(on stage: Pete and Pete creators Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi)
It was surreal standing next to McRobb and Viscardi later, knowing these two men were responsible for so many childhood memories. How did they know what to convey on their show, and how could they do it so well? I guess it’s all lightning in a bottle, but I was thankful for the candidness of everyone on stage. They seemed set out to make this show, on their terms, and it is a real testament to the system actually working like the right way that they were able to pull it off. I mean, Toby Huss (Artie) was (and still is) clearly on drugs. I found his anecdote about how the character of Artie came into existence as particularly fascinating:
And of course, there was nothing quite like seeing the two Petes back together again:
Just kind of magical, man.
And speaking of magic – sparks flew when I got to meet Ellen. Turns out she never acted again after "Pete and Pete", went to Goucher College in Baltimore and became a Mental Health Specialist or something. Props to her. I wanted to tell her what a giant crush I had on her growing up, but I felt too bashful. I didn’t want to be too much of a fanboy… especially after I insisted on getting this picture:
You can’t really tell from this picture, but Ellen is categorically Hipster-Cute. Has a nice li'l pixie haircut and everything. Also, that is an Expos hat I’m wearing.
Another thing I was reminded of is the fact that I’ve been seeing Rick Santorum everywhere these days. Starting with Pete and Pete creator Chris Viscardi, I feel like I’ve been seeing the newly so-called GOP frontrunner in the face of people everywhere – on the street, walking home. Do I hold this minor resemblance against Viscardi? Well no, I more blame these pain pills my dentist gave me in anticipation of next week’s root canal. It was unnerving, however, to register that the brain behind one of my childhood shows looked like a politician who actively rails against things like gay marriage, women’s rights, peace on earth and going to college – all values I at least pretend to espouse while hitting on girls. For what its worth, McRobb kind of comes off as John Hughes. Might be the hair.
So, in all, a really great trip down memory lane. I especially loved talking to Hardy Rawls, AKA Mr. Wrigley. He was a very gracious man who seemed to have a real sense of what the show meant to people. No surprise, Little Pete is not much of a musician (sorry Blowholes), but I still thought it was kickass to see them cover the show’s theme “Hey Sandy” by Polaris.
If I could do it all over again, I’d ask Big Pete about those Stewart commercials he used to do for Ameritrade (you know, before the talking baby), and I’d probably ask Ellen to smooch. Well, not really, that’d ruin what we had growing up. Some things are better left to the imagination, amirite?
In the end, "The Adventures of Pete and Pete" invites fans to personally reflect on their connection to the show. And in a larger sense, it acts as a mechanism for our own reflections on childhood. So, in that way, every article on the show is going to be wholly original, as long as the writer displays the same level of honesty in their coverage as cast and crew did in putting the show together.
Me? I had a great time.