What they don’t expect to find is Mr. Pumpkins. The joke, of course, is that there’s nothing remotely frightening about him.
“I’m David Pumpkins, and I’m gonna scares you stupid,” Hank’s character, dressed in a black suit with an orange pumpkin pattern, announces just before the skeletons flanking him (played by cast member Mikey Day and former cast member Bobby Moynihan, who returned for Saturday’s episode) begin dancing to techno. Pumpkins soon joins in, before asking “Any questions?”
By the time he reappears, the folks on the ride do have questions. All the other entries come from popular horror franchises, such as the possessed Annabelle doll from the “Conjuring” universe, Pennywise, the killer clown from “It,” and the murderous Michael Myers from “Halloween” who has just separated his victims from her intestines. But Mr. Pumpkins?
“Who are you?” asks Dismukes.
“I’m David Pumpkins, man,” Hanks responds.
“David Pumpkins from what?” an increasingly exasperated Dismukes shoots back.
“Before!” Hanks responds.
“And the skeletons are?” Dismukes later asks, before they both shout in response: “Next to him!”
We do learn a tantalizing fact about the mysterious David S. Pumpkins. No, not what the “S” stands for, but that’s he’s from Ibiza, the Spanish island resort. (“He doesn’t even have an accent!” complains Dismukes.)
The character was met with instant praise when it made its first appearance on the show in 2016. Wrote Elahe Izadi in The Washington Post at the time, “We are just weeks away from Election Day, and we needed this. We needed David S. Pumpkins. ‘Saturday Night Live’ included a rarity this week: a sketch that made you giggle uncontrollably that wasn’t about politics at all.” She added that it served as “a reminder that SNL can still deliver silly sketches that hold up over time, and that celebrity hosts can do more than carry their weight.”
It became an instant fan favorite, due in part to how absolutely strange it was, reminding many viewers of an earlier era of SNL. Bill Gates spoofed the sketch. A wax figure of Mr. Pumpkins appeared at Madame Tussauds. The pumpkin suit became a popular Halloween costume, and Hanks nabbed an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.
“I could watch 90 minutes of #DavidPumpkins,” tweeted comedian Mike Birbiglia at the time.
He might have been onto something, because the next year SNL aired a short animated show titled “The David S. Pumpkins Animated Halloween Special.”
The original sketch, written by Day, Moynihan and Streeter Seidell, came together as they tried to steer away from the political sketches that dominated the show that year. “I think names and suits are funny. Normal names in insane situations and dumb suits are funny. So, I just remember thinking, ‘David Pumpkins. He’s got pumpkins on his suit,’” Day told Vulture.
“I remember Mikey being very tired and exasperated, and after a 30-second silence he just went, ‘What if we just call him David Pumpkins?’ ” added Moynihan.
The return of David S. Pumpkins was a welcome sight on Saturday, coming four episodes into a new season that’s been struggling to find its rhythm after the departures of several longtime top cast members, including Kate McKinnon, Kyle Mooney, Aidy Bryant and Pete Davidson, among others. Saturday’s episode included a few inspired moments — in particular a trailer for a horror movie titled “2020 Part 2: 2024” about who Democrats will nominate for president and a return of Moynihan’s beloved drunk uncle character (who lets slip he was at the Capitol on Jan. 6).
But, for the most part, it remained a fairly uneven affair. The show delivered another wan cold-open sketch by taking the obvious jabs at Republican candidates Kari Lake, Herschel Walker and Dr. Mehmet Oz, just weeks after this season’s premiere, which mocked itself for having too many political sketches that just seem to recite the news, rather than actually glean memorable humor from it.
As with previous peaks and valleys in SNL history, the show has plenty of room to improve if the young cast finds its footing. Until then, we have David S. Pumpkins, back to scare the heck of out of us.