One of the great joys of the the late '80s was Saturday morning cartoons. To this day there's no ploy more genius to getting a kid out of bed early on a Saturday than the promise of hours and hours of cartoons on every major network, as if the television gods were conspiring in your favor to guarantee that for a brief moment in time each week, the TV would be yours and yours alone and no one would kick you off to watch the news or whatever other adult garbage they were into.
By noon, after binging on sugary cereal, Eggos and Bugs Bunny all morning, the fun was over and you'd experience what drug addicts call "the comedown," which either left you too lethargic to leave the family room as your dad put on Bass Masters or annoying your mother about how bored you were and "Can we please go to Toys R Us just to look?"
While most of Saturday Morning Cartoons were, in fact, cartoons, there was one show in the fall of '86 that was unlike anything else on TV: Pee-wee's Playhouse. The show was based on The Pee-wee Herman Show, a live stage production that was not exactly a kids' show. But Pee-wee creator Paul Reubens managed to make the transition flawlessly, and thanks to him millions of kids grew up knowing a pre-Morpheus Laurence Fishburne will forever be Cowboy Curtis (although Furious Styles is also accepted as the role to forever associate him with), along with Phil Hartman as Captain Carl and Miss Yvonne as the most glamorous woman in all the land.
Pee-wee's playhouse itself was the dream, partly because he had the most random friends and housemates ... but also because he had an actual working robot named Conky, full name Conk 2000, and owning a robot was EVERY '80s kid's ultimate dream.
Conky wasn't just some lame robot, though. Conky had sass and funk and was basically a robot/boom box hybrid that only the MTV generation could ever truly appreciate. He was like the B-boy of robots. I wouldn't be at all surprised if at some point an upgrade in his programming made him break out the cardboard and bust a move worthy of Electric Boogaloo. Conky was hands-down one of the Top 5 '80s robots. In fact, he was #2:
1-Paulie's robot 2-Conky from Pee-Wee's Playhouse 3- Tik-Tok from Return to Oz 4- Vicki from Small Wonder 5 - Omnibot. https://t.co/SJ6iJZKWfA— Cher (@thecherness) February 7, 2017
It's on Twitter so it's official. Conky was so cool that young Jimmy Smits played Authorized Conky Repairman Johnny Wilson.
Not only was Conky fresh with a capital F but he also provided what became a pop culture phenomenon called The Secret Word aka the moment your parents wanted to break the TV. The Secret Word required everyone to scream like a lunatic whenever someone spoke it, and you are LYING if you say you didn't take full advantage to do so and also continued doing so for the rest of the damn day. Points if you kept that commitment going for a full week until the next episode.
Kids love to be loud, especially kids hopped up on sugar. The Secret Word was like that annoying loud toy you give to your friends' kids because you know it will equally make your friends' kids insanely happy and your friends insane with fury and they'll never invite you to another kids birthday party again, which was the real reason for the annoyingly loud gift all along.
I miss Conky. Why no toy company hasn't manufactured a mini voice-activated Conky so everyone could have one of their own is beyond me. Pee-wee, if you read this, make it happen. You could kick back and relax on Chairy, smoking a fatty and cashing those big paychecks from all the money that would definitely roll in from Conky merch. You don't even have to give me a cut. Just give me my Conky for free.