Michael Simon ’19 / Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer
Sometimes, SNL gets it right.
Now of course, there are plenty of times when SNL gets it totally wrong.
But sometimes, SNL just gets it right.
Now, in the middle of election season, SNL has kicked it into full gear. With at least two or three sketches per night dedicated to political satire, and famous celebrity cameos becoming the new norm, it is easy to let other material slip through the cracks. But the sketch at hand here does not involve any of that fluff—no Alec Baldwin caked in orange makeup and pouty lips, no boisterous Kate McKinnon partying it up as Secretary Clinton, none of it. Instead, what they delivered was a whacky sketch about a truly ridiculous Tower of Terror spin-off—a sketch that can be watched and enjoyed at any time or year, completely independent of current events or timely context.
For those who don’t know the sketch, check it out. It involves a couple riding in the elevator of the Tower of Terror, with the elevator being operated by Kenan Thompson, who stops on each floor, and throws the doors open with some dramatic flair. Sometimes the door opens on a suicidal bride-to-be. Sometimes they open on a demon-possessed child.
And sometimes, the doors open on David Pumpkins.
Now, David Pumpkins (brought to life incredibly by host Tom Hanks) is not the ordinary Halloween fright. He sports a pumpkin-covered suit and tie and is accompanied by his two dancing skeleton friends. The doors fly open on him, he yells his name as well as some variation of his introduction, proceeds to do a little eccentric dance, and then asks the viewers “Any Questions?” before the doors abruptly swing shut.
The brilliance of David S. Pumpkins is that it is nearly impossible to nail down exactly what makes him so instantly memorable. Is it the unnecessary middle initial that gets added during his second appearance? Is it the fact that for some reason, he appears in 73 out of the 100 floors on this ride? Is it the giddy expression constantly frozen on his face? Who knows?
Perhaps the sketch is especially heightened by the built in self-analysis provided by the ride-goers portrayed by Kate McKinnon and Beck Bennett. As the two start off the ride in high Halloween spirits, they eventually grow more and more confused by the constant presence of this man, and the apparent indifference of the ride operator only adds to their frustration. It is through them that Pumpkins’ throwaway catchphrase becomes a main source of hilarity. “Any questions?” he repeatedly asks. “Yes! Several!” replies an aggravated Bennett, despite the elevator doors having already closed on his tormentor. Bennett and McKinnon serve as an extension of the audience at home, all of whom were asking the same questions. What’s up with the skeletons? Who is David S. Pumpkins? Why did this ride decide to go all in on this idea?
Often times, an SNL sketch needs some sort of additional explanation before the viewer realizes the humor behind it. Political sketches require a sense of current events. Parodies require a knowledge of source material. Weekend Update demands quick reflexes. David S. Pumpkins is different. He is his own entity entirely, separate from everything else. It’s the kind of script where one can imagine the writers merely throwing out a ridiculous concept and deciding to run with it. As Hanks drove the bit by fully committing himself to this goofy concept and his perfectly synchronized dance moves, the sketch is a simple case of everything coming together in the perfect way, and the only explanation given is the following exchange:
“Who are you?”
“I’m David Pumpkins, man!”
“And David Pumpkins is…?”
“His own thing!”
“And the skeletons are…?”
“PART OF IT!”
That’s all there is to it folks. There we have the simple brilliance of David S. Pumpkins.