Why Do We Still Love David S. Pumpkins and the Haunted Elevator Sketch Four Years Later?

Every few years a new Saturday Night Live sketch becomes a defining moment that transcends the show and goes on to become beloved for years to come: "More Cowbell," Chris Farley's Matt Foley, Debbie Downer, to name a few. Four years ago, the "Haunted Elevator" sketch introduced the world to David S. Pumpkins who almost instantly became a fan-favorite character.

If you've been living under a rock, the sketch features Tom Hanks as David S. Pumpkins, a character that makes recurring appearances in a haunted elevator for Halloween, much to the confusion of a couple (played by Kate McKinnon and Beck Bennett), because all Pumpkins does "to scare the hell out of you" is dance along with two b-boy skeletons.

The sketch was written by Mikey Day, Bobby Moynihan, and Streeter Seidell, who all look back on it fondly, even if the massive success is somewhat surprising. "I definitely didn't think I'd be answering questions every year about it. That's very funny to me," Moynihan told Newsweek in a phone call.

Seidell called the sketch a standout from SNL's 42nd season. "It was such a high octane experience with so many highs and lows and David Pumpkins was, for me, the highest high. That something so deeply stupid and non-political could resonate weeks before the 2016 election was so unexpected and such a delight," he wrote in an email to Newsweek.

While it may be hard for the average person to pin their finger on why the sketch has become so beloved, Seidell and Moynihan both pointed to Hanks as probably the biggest reason that Pumpkins found his way into people's hearts. "Tom Hanks is obviously the biggest reason it resonated. His performance, which he didn't really unlock until air, was perfect," Seidell wrote.

Moynihan similarly complimented Hanks' performance. "Tom Hanks being that guy is the silliest thing in the world, and he committed 100 percent . He's just an amazing performer. He sold the silliness of how weird this-the whole point is that it's just weird," he said.

Day also pointed to the timelessness of it. "It was just crazy, dumb, joyous fun. And I'd think that has contributed to its lasting resonance. He's not tied to any specific moment in time, he's tied to Halloween which is a part of our culture," he wrote in an email to Newsweek.

While the sheer ridiculousness is what made the sketch so memorable in the first place, the timing of the sketch also played into some aspects of why it struck so many people at the time. The sketch aired just a few weeks before the 2016 presidential election, and the sheer silliness wasn't something that divided people, but rather something the nation could all laugh about together.

"While we were actually in the studio doing the sketch the night that it aired, I just remember thinking, 'Wow those first couple sketches were pretty political, and this one is pretty silly, I hope it [works],'" Moynihan said.

Having the change of tone and pace clearly paid off, in providing a reprieve from the stress that the election news cycle brought. "Everything at that point in 2016 was politics and it was all so bitter and nasty and then David S. Pumpkins comes along with his weirdo skeleton buddies. I think it was just a little breather from everything being so heavy," Seidell wrote.

While some people may still manage to capture that same type of escapism by rewatching the clip, it doesn't appear that there are any plans for David Pumpkins to show up to make us all laugh in 2020. "In the sense of people are definitely looking for any possible way to laugh or have a good time, sure, but I don't know if David Pumpkins is coming back to save the world," Moynihan said.

Day explained that it was unlikely they'd revisit the concept any time soon. "The temptation is always there to repeat something that was successful and do an official live sequel sketch. There's also trepidation of not being able to recapture the fun of that first time. So much of the character is the discovery of this very weird man. The audience was meeting him along with Kate and Beck in the sketch. So I'm inclined to say he'll live on in our hearts and that's it. Never say never but that's the thought for now," he wrote.

David S. Pumpkins' legacy in both SNL's pantheon of great characters and even Hanks' filmography has become an important career achievement for the writers. "If you had told 15 year-old Bobby about that, he would've cried himself to sleep. I have Funko Pops. I have an action figure of David Pumpkins. I can't believe it when I put them with all the SNL other ones-it's crazy to grow up loving those characters and being able to contribute to that universe is [crazy]," Moynihan said.

"Last year Tom Hanks got the Cecil B. Demille award at the Golden Globes and there was a clip of David Pumpkins included in his lifetime achievement reel. It's right in there with Philadelphia and Saving Private Ryan. That was a lifetime achievement for us," Seidell wrote.

Seidell and Day both expressed some higher hopes for Pumpkins extending beyond just SNL but to become a Halloween regular. Seidell likened it to a "Santa Claus for Halloween," noting that the character still had a ways to go to get to that point. "My ultimate goal is to have Mr. Pumpkins endure and join the large staple of annual Halloween mascots: mummy, zombie, werewolf, etc. He may not be a starter Halloween fright but hopefully he'll be hovering around the bench somewhere for a while," Day wrote.

Any questions?

Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks (L) and Rita Wilson attend the SNL 40th Anniversary Celebration at Rockefeller Plaza on February 15, 2015 in New York City. Getty/D Dipasupil/FilmMagic