'The Adventures of Pete & Pete': What guest stars did you not recognize until you were older?

Pete-Pete

Howard the Duck was one of my favorite movies for an embarrassingly long stretch of childhood, so I think it’s safe to say I didn’t have particularly great taste. However, one of the undoubtedly few good viewing choices I made was The Adventures of Pete & Pete, which, unlike a certain comedy starring Marty McFly’s mom and an intergalactic mallard, has only gotten better in the rear-view.

Rewatching the series as an adult, you realize two things. The first being that back in the Wild West days of cable television, Nickelodeon could get away with being both very strange and very good, especially compared to the channel’s more recent laugh-track sitcoms like iCarly and Drake & Josh, which seem to be preparing an entire generation of children to chortle until they choke at the wacky antics of Two and a Half Men. The other realization is exactly how much you missed as an unhip youngster, particularly when it comes to the series’ eclectic list of guest stars.

Everyone remembers “What We Did On Our Summer Vacation,” in which the Petes search for Mr. Tastee, a swirl-headed ice cream man who has gone missing during the dog days of summer. The episode has all of the bittersweet suburban malaise of an early Updike short story, but it also had surprise turns by Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and Kate Pierson of the B-52’s, of whom I was completely oblivious despite the fact that “Rock Lobster” was one of my favorite songs. (Seriously, that’s a great kids’ song, with all those narwhal sounds and whatnot.)

Another guest that added to the show’s retroactive awesomeness was Pierson’s collaborator Iggy Pop, who showed up fairly regularly as Mr. Mecklenberg, father of Michelle Trachtenberg’s Nona. Lest you think it was all just CBGB-era musicians (although Blondie’s Debbie Harry and the New York Dolls’ David Johansen both also stopped by) actors like Janeane Garofalo and Steve Buscemi made appearances long before I would ever see the likes of The Larry Sanders Show or Reservoir Dogs. And pre-empting Family Guy’s Mayor Adam West, Pete & Pete had Principal Adam West.

But likely the weirdest and least youth-accessible guest the show ever had was Patty Hearst. If, as a 10-year-old, you saw the episode “35 Hours” and said to yourself, “Hey, isn’t that kidnapped heiress and Symbionese Liberation Army member Patty Hearst in the role of the subversively Stepfordian Mrs. Kretchmar?”, then you were one scarily precocious 10-year-old. But if not, then it’s just another treat for us adults with nothing better to do but rewatch the shows of our youth and sigh wistfully. If you’re feeling particularly nostalgic, take a look at this supercut of all of the show’s best cameos.

Bonus question: How many of you tried to fight the waves at the beach like Artie, the Strongest Man in the World?

Comments (20 total) Add your comment
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  • DK

    It’s worth noting that there could be two separate questions here: who was the coolest guest star you didn’t recognize, AND who was the coolest guest star. For example, I voted for Steve Buscemi because he is the coolest one I didn’t recognize at the time. However, he might not get my vote if the question were worded differently — I recognized Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry and Adam West as a child.

  • mel

    Michael Stipe!

  • Winnie

    I bought the first Season of Pete & Pete and showed it to my kids w/mixed results, but at least I still enjoyed it and was surprised that quite a few of my all time favorite episodes debuted so early on. In watching Buffy, I always thought back to Michelle Trachtenberg on Pete & Pete (and John Waters’ Cry-Baby introduced me to Iggy Pop on the non-music level as well as Patty Hearst). Like many (according to the current results, he’s in the lead) here, I didn’t know Steve Buscemi was Steve Buscemi back then, so re-watching and seeing him was great. I also knew Michael Stipe, Kate Pierson, and Janeane Garofalo from my younger 90s love of …strangeness.

    Oh, and I have no credibility to strip, so I have no problem admitting that I actually like iCarly when the kids have it on and I feel like something similar (that would’ve made sense at the time) would’ve been as important to me as “Pete & Pete”, “Salute Your Shorts”, “All That”, “Clarissa Explains it All” and the like…

  • ian

    I remember recognizing Janeane Garofalo and Steve Buscemi from somewhere, but I had no idea where.

    Forgot about Chris Elliot, and I’m just learning about some of those other ones now.

  • Stacie

    As a kid who loved the 60s Batman, I just assumed Adam West was on TV all the time.

  • kbooga

    Michelle Trachtenberg

  • Solamente Dave

    That Juliana Hatfield and Lucious Jackson had roles was incredibly cool. More than cameos that I didn’t know at the time, I’m always amazed by the character actors that I see pop up in other places. I’m always seeing Bus Driver Stu Benedict pop up.

    I do wonder why Toby Huss (Artie, the Strongest Man in the World) doesn’t get more work. He was fantastic. “Pipe!”

  • JMB in FL

    I used to watch this show with my oldest son (who is now 20) and we loved it. And when Michele Trachtenberg came on to Buffy, all I could think was, “Where’s her arm cast?”

  • JMB in FL

    Also, the older Pete (whose name escapes me right now) gave a guest turn on Law & Order as a punk kid who killed someone. It was weird to see him in that role.

  • valdar

    i watched this with my son who is now 26, and I recognized Patty Hearst BACK THEN as the kidnapped SLA member…..good on ya, making me feel old

  • tracy bluth

    Like Hey Arnold, I didn’t really understand how great Pete and Pete was until I watched an episode when I was older. I now own seasons 1 and 2 on DVD, and it makes me really happy when guest stars like Iggy Pop show up.

  • SC

    Don’t forget Bebe Neuwirth as the Mail Carrier!

    • Kelly

      Not sure if Bebe had a recurring role as I didn’t watch the show, but if you’re referring to the mail carrier in the above clip, that’s Ann Magnuson.

      • Betty

        Kelly, the mail carrier in the clip was Bebe Neuwirth, though Ann Magnuson did play a different mail carrier in other episodes.

      • betty

        Kelly, the mail carrier in the above clip was Bebe Neuwirth. Ann Magnuson played a mail carrier in a different episode.

    • Kelly

      I stand corrected…the mail carrier about halfway through the clip is indeed Bebe, but the one at roughly the 1:00 mark (“chirpety, chirp, chirp!”) is most definitely Ann.

  • BJohnson

    I LOVED Pete & Pete. Man I feel old. LOL

  • drat

    Did anybody else read that last line in the article like Artie would have said it?

  • Paula

    Pete & Pete was a show misunderstood in it’s time. But a classic non less, one of my favorite shows when a was a kid, I still have the intro song in my I pod.

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