Part biography, part live performance, Beauty Is Embarrassing tells the story of this one-of-a-kind visual artist and raconteur. The film traces White’s career from an underground cartoonist in New York’s East Village to his big break as a designer, puppeteer, and voice-over actor on Pee-wee’s Playhouse for which he won three Emmy awards. It follows Wayne’s success designing and animating for other children’s shows like Beakman’s World and music videos for The Smashing Pumpkins (“Tonight, Tonight”) and Peter Gabriel (“Big Time”) through a dark period of struggle and self-reflection before emerging in his present-day incarnation as a respected painter and performer. The film, like White, embraces the ragged edges and messy contradictions of life, art, and family with rabid humor and honesty.
For two years, filmmaker Neil Berkeley traveled with White through Houston, Miami, New York, Chattanooga, Nashville, and Los Angeles retracing Wayne’s steps from childhood to parenthood. He peeled back layer after layer of Wayne’s singular creative process and his astonishingly prolific career. In addition to the 300+ hours of footage shot by Berkeley and his team, the director discovered hours of video which White shot throughout his career including never-before-seen behind the scenes footage of the making of Pee-wee’s Playhouse — now included in Beauty Is Embarrassing.