Last week, Saturday Night Live introduced the world to yet another piece of deeply mediocre comedy that the world wide web has desperately tried to make into this year’s hottest Halloween meme. His name is David S. Pumpkins and he is portrayed by legendary actor and Polar Express star Tom Hanks.
Here’s the premise of the sketch: two people (Kate McKinnon and Beck Bennett) go to a haunted elevator ride. The first two frights of the ride are the type of ghosts you’d expect. The third “spooky” performance is revealed to not be spooky at all, but instead, Tom Hanks in a pumpkin suit sandwiched between two dancing skeletons. “How’s it hanging? I’m David Pumpkins,” Hanks declares.
Who is David S. Pumpkins? The point of the sketch is that we don’t know. He’s just a random silly guy, slapping the asses of his two skeletons. There’s no explanation. At one point in the sketch, Kenan Thompson, playing the elevator operator, tells McKinnon and Bennett, “Look, it’s 100 floors of frights. They’re not all going to be winners.” And that’s exactly it. David S. Pumpkins is not a winner.
I first watched the David S. Pumpkins sketch Sunday morning while catching up on SNL, something I do every week despite the consistent mediocrity of the legendary comedy show. I found the sketch so deeply unremarkable—still have yet to crack a Pumpkins-related smile—that I was genuinely surprised to see Twitter squealing with delight about Hanks’ character. I assumed the Black Jeopardy sketch—which is not only funny but about as profound as an SNL bit gets—would be last week’s breakout star.
But instead, we got David S. Pumpkins. We get the memes we deserve, and unfortunately, at this juncture in history, we deserve absolute trash.
A friend pointed out to me on Twitter that David S. Pumpkins is basically the same thing as another absurd orange suited character from earlier this season. Portrayed by legendary comedian and Whatever Works star Larry David, this character introduces himself with the line, “I’m Kevin Roberts and I’m the coolest bitch in town. Where’s the party?”
Both of these characters rely on the premise that it’s funny to watch an old man in silly clothes say nonsensical things. Sometimes that can be funny, but in the case of both Roberts and S. Pumpkins, it fell flat as fuck. In part, it’s because both sketches seem purely silly in lieu of being funny.
The one charming thing about David S. Pumpkins is that you can tell how much fun all the SNL cast members are having throughout the sketch. But that’s not enough to carry it. At its core, the sketch is trying too hard to make David S. Pumpkins happen. I prefer my Halloween memes to happen organically, like the classic KXVO15 dancing pumpkin, which in a comedic delight due in part to its raw authenticity. SNL cast members take note: this is how you do a silly dance.
In a post last week on io9, Beth Elderkin writes, “There is nothing better than watching ‘America’s Dad’ dancing in a pumpkin suit as two sexy skeletons gyrate alongside him.” Perhaps that’s my issue: I’m not endeared by America’s dad.
This Halloween, don’t fall for the tricks of David S. Pumpkins. Instead, go back to the classics. Do the Monster Mash. (It’s a graveyard smash!)