Some people are baffled by some of life’s great mysteries, things like what happens after you die and how is selective hearing one of the first things a toddler learns. And while I too am curious about those things, I’m not baffled. But what I am baffled about is the cultural phenomenon that is David S. Pumpkins.
For those fortunate few unaware or in the dark about who David S. Pumpkins is, allow me to shed some light.
Pumpkins is a character played by Tom Hanks who appeared in the sketch entitled “Haunted Elevator” that was featured on an episode that aired in October of 2016. See, there’s an elevator and there’s Kenan Thompson operating the elevator. The haunted elevator promises “100 floors of fright” and on this particular ride, a fun-loving couple played by Beck Bennett and Kate McKinnon, are up for all the floors, all the fright. The first floor features a zombie bride, the second floor has a waiter serving up a severed head that somewhat resembles McKinnon.
Then the door opens a third time and it’s Pumpkins.
The skeletons flanking him dance, Pumpkins dances and then asks “any questions?”
There’s another floor and then more Pumpkins and another floor with Pumpkins again before the ending, in which the big payoff I guess is that Pumpkins is no longer on the floor, but in the elevator.
And that’s it.
No really, that’s it.
But it’s not it because somehow this sketch and the Pumpkins character took off. Vulture ranked the sketch third in it’s rankings of the best sketches of the year, ahead of the first Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer appearance. The Pumpkins’ sketch became the sketch that wouldn’t die and riding that high, Saturday Night Live have a David S. Pumpkins animated special set to air this weekend. Vulture even produced an oral history of the sketch and both of the dancing skeletons, Bobby Moynihan and Mikey Day, have had late night talk show appearances go viral as they provide insight on the sketch because for some reason we need to learn more about this bit.
Am I missing something here? I didn’t find it all that funny the first time I watched it and then again when it had appeared on my Twitter so many times in the days that followed it I felt compelled to give it another shot. I then watched it again yesterday because I had become convinced I was missing something. It had been a year since I watched it and I have a bad memory so perhaps it was actually funny and I had just forgotten. But you know, after watching it, I sat back and turned to my dog and sighed, admitting that no, I still don’t find it that funny. My enjoyment of the sketch has stayed on the sidelines, but the confusion about it’s popularity remains.
I understand that humor is subjective and what one person finds funny, another person might not. But here’s the thing, I should like “Haunted Elevator.” It’s dumb, silly, random and absurd. Those are all four big selling points for me when it comes to the kind of humor I like. For crying out loud, I liked The Love Guru and NO ONE liked that movie. When it comes to humor, I don’t need it to be high brow. In fact, I’m totally cool with just the opposite, which is what “Haunted Elevator” seems to be. “Haunted Elevator” isn’t just in my wheelhouse, “Haunted Elevator” is my wheelhouse.
If I find anything funny, it’s Beck Bennett’s confusion about Pumpkins’ presence in the attraction and then Thompson’s reasoning for them “going all in on Pumpkins,” which is because 100 floors is a lot of floors to populate. There’s nothing I think is particularly funny about Pumpkins himself or his dancing skeleton b-boys. I appreciate Moynihan and Day’s commitment, but that’s about it.
Do we like the sketch because it’s Tom Hanks and as Americans, we’re obligated by some unspoken truth to applaud his every move? Listen, I like Hanks as much as the next guy, but even my fondness for him doesn’t cloud my judgement to such a degree that I’m able to applaud something as unfunny as Pumpkins. That’s blind loyalty and I’m blindly loyal to one thing and one thing only and that’s anything pertaining to The Wire. Other than that, I think blind loyalty is dangerous and corrosive and I’ll have no part of it.
Ultimately I think this is just going to be one of those times when reasoning and answers allude me because I don’t think I’ll ever get to the bottom of the Pumpkins phenomenon. I’m sure people who are fans would say it’s funny for a variety of reasons and while they’re entitled to their opinion, it’s never going to sway mine, mainly because my opinion is one shrouded in confusion and lack of understanding.
I just don’t think I’ll ever find the answers.