The untold truth of David S. Pumpkins

If you're reading this right now, it can really only mean one thing: you're one of the millions of people who have fallen under the delightfully deranged spell of the Halloween season's newest, happiest, and above all dumbest mascot, David S. Pumpkins.

Making his first appearance on the October 22, 2016 episode of Saturday Night Live, Tom Hanks' David Pumpkins and his two B-Boy skeleton companions (played by two of the sketch's three writers, Mikey Day and Bobby Moynihan) became immediate online sensations, inspiring thousands of tweets, a slew of memes, and generally delighted confusion. But what's the story behind this spooky, orange-suited Santa send-up? Who is he? Where did he come from? And can we count on Mr. Pumpkins to make a Halloween appearance every year? To get the answers you seek, let's take a peek into the writers' room at SNL and explore the untold truth of David S. Pumpkins.

A viral video served as inspiration

Have you ever seen the viral video known as "Little Superstar"? Well former Saturday Night Live writer and performer Bobby Moynihan has. He and his writing partners Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell were fans of the clip, which has racked up over 18 million views since it first hit YouTube in 2006. Ten years later, "Little Superstar"—which originally appeared in the 1990 Indian comedy movie Athisaya Piravi—apparently inspired the three SNL writers to let their imaginations run wild. In a 2017 appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Moynihan revealed that the star of the video's dance moves led to the creation of David S. Pumpkins.

"How we got there is truly bizarre," Moynihan told Meyers. "But we were watching that video—there's a video of an Indian guy dancing around, and every once in awhile, he stops and the music stops. And we thought that was really fun, and we were like, 'Let's write something where we're dancing.'"

And this isn't even the first time "Little Superstar" has made its way onto SNL in some form. In April 2007, Bill Hader and Fred Armisen performed a brief parody of the video at the end of an episode, but that was nothing compared to the bad breakdancing madness to come.

The Santa Claus of Halloween

Once Moynihan, Day, and Seidel knew they wanted to do their own spin on "Little Superstar," the rest seemed to fall into place pretty quickly. Moynihan told Meyers that the show's airdate being so close to Halloween was the next piece of the writing puzzle. After that, the ideas came fast and furious.

Moynihan recalled: "We said, there's no Santa Claus for Halloween. So we're like, okay, so if we make this guy, and we're his side dancers. And then Mikey was like, 'how about David Pumpkins? And I was like, 'what about David S. Pumpkins? And the rest is history."

So what's that "S" stand for anyway? According to a Moynihan interview with Huffington Post in 2016: "Simon [...] For no reason whatsoever."

Sounds about right.

He was supposed to talk a lot more

Part of what makes David S. Pumpkins work is the fact that he doesn't really say much about who he is or why he exists. He's just kind of there, a grinning weirdo who assumes you'll learn everything you need to know about him just by watching him breakdance with his skeleton pals. But as Mikey Day explained to Uproxx in May 2017, the original version of the sketch had the ur-Pumpkins providing a lot more exposition about his ridiculous, pointless existence as a festive Halloween mutant.

"Originally, he talked a lot more," said Day. "Originally, there was a lot more dialogue. And originally it was set to like a beat, so it kind of had rhythm. And we were like, 'Do you haunt?' And he's like, 'Maybe.' And then there was, 'If you wake up in the morning and there's a pumpkin in your hall closet, that means I hate you.' And it was like, 'What?' And he had a little more attitude. He'd be like, 'Get a life!'"

Thankfully the mysteriously stupid David S. Pumpkins we know and love is the one who eventually made it to air—and into our hearts.

Tom Hanks didn't want to do it

Tom Hanks has been known an Oscar-winning dramatic actor for several decades now, making it easy to forget that he got his showbiz start in comedy. From Bosom Buddies and Bachelor Party to Big and Joe vs. the Volcano, Hanks' ability to be funny in just about any role is something we only get to see these days when he shows up on SNL. Even still, Hanks wasn't entirely convinced that he wanted to take on his most demanding role yet: David S. Pumpkins.

"Tom was playing with the character all the way up to air," Day revealed in his Uproxx interview. "He was like, 'Trying to wrap my head around this guy, guys.'"

"Tom Hanks, in between dress and air—not a fan of the sketch," Moynihan elaborated on Late Night a few months later. "He thought it was very bizarre." 

In fact, he apparently suggested that they save the character for the host of the following week's episode. "[He] was like, 'Hey, I think Chris Hemsworth would make a great David Pumpkins.'"

As fantastic as that would be, the character probably wouldn't have been such an instant hit if Hemsworth had worn the pumpkin suit. It really needed Tom Hanks' full commitment to being a dancing Halloween goon to make it work.

It caused the costume to immediately sell out

It isn't easy putting on a live comedy show every week, and SNL employs lots of talented professionals to help make it happen. They're in charge of finding—or making—pretty much all of the outfits you see in each episode. So when it comes to a character like David S. Pumpkins, whose entire schtick is centered around what he's wearing, you'd think that the costume designers would've had a pretty strong hand in making the sketch a reality. But you'd be wrong: Moynihan told Meyers that the pumpkin-covered suit that Tom Hanks wears in the sketch was "a $12.99 suit from Party City, I think."

Even before that reveal, it seems that more than enough SNL fans scoped out their local costume shops and grabbed up as many authentic David S. Pumpkins suits as possible. Just days after the sketch aired, outlets across the web reported that the suit was straight up sold out a week before Halloween. As for that $13 price tag Moynihan mentioned, he was either mistaken, or the character's sudden popularity spike has driven the cost of dressing like David up to $60.

It weirded out Tom Hanks' son

It's probably not easy being the son of one of Hollywood's biggest stars. It's probably even harder when you're trying to carve out an acting career of your own, but your dad's weirdo pumpkin character is all anyone can talk about.

Behold the sad tale of Colin Hanks, who appeared on the Today Show shortly after the sketch aired to promote his show, Life in Pieces. After three minutes of talking, Al Roker just wanted to know if Colin had seen this crazy David Pumpkins thing everyone was talking about. Of course he had…and he was kinda weirded out by it.

"I didn't watch live, unfortunately I had a prior commitment, so I heard all about David S. Pumpkins. And I saw [it], and I said, 'oh, gee, wow, okay,'" said the younger Hanks. The stammering didn't stop there: "It is really…y'know…yeah. Welcome to my life, Al."

Roker then told Colin that his step-mom, Rita Wilson, had commented to him that she might ask Tom to perform David Pumpkins at home. Colin's reply?

"Not when I'm in the house. That ain't gonna happen."

Tom Hanks has resigned himself to his new legacy

Hanks appeared on SNL in the now-infamous episode to promote his role in the latest Da Vinci Code movie, Inferno, which was set to hit theaters the following weekend. But by the time the premiere of the film came around a few days later, there was really only one thing anyone wanted to talk to him about: David Goddamn Pumpkins.

Access Hollywood's Liz Hernandez started in on the questions, and it's clear from Hanks' reaction in the interview that he might harbor a couple regrets about putting on that suit. Even still, he knows that you can't fight destiny.

"Literally on Friday, actually Saturday morning, the name David S. Pumpkins meant absolutely nothing to anybody," he said with a grimace of regret. "And yet now…I guess I'll be David S. Pumpkins for the rest of my life. Here lies David S. Pumpkins."

Bill Gates is, like, Christmas Pumpkins or something?

There's that old saying that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." If that's true, then Hanks, Day, and Moynihan should feel very flattered that none other than Bill Gates decided to film and post his own holiday-themed version of the David Pumpkins sketch. The whole thing seems inspired by Pumpkins' catchphrase, "Any questions?" since it was posted to promote Gates' then-upcoming fifth Reddit AMA.

While it's hard not to feel a little bad for Gates—whose frozen smile seems to indicate that this video maybe wasn't his idea, and that perhaps he'd prefer just playing Minesweeper or filling out an Excel spreadsheet instead—the video is still impossibly lame. Like seeing Jake Paul dab, or hearing Hillary Clinton mention Pokemon Go at a campaign rally, Gates' attempt to gain internet cool points as the confusingly named "Christmas Pumpkins" threatens to derail the whole thing entirely. It also manages the nearly impossible feat of making even less sense than the original sketch—which is impressive since half of the SNL sketch's actual joke is based on the fact that David S. Pumpkins makes no sense. There's wheels within wheels here, guys.

Suffice it to say, no one wants to see a sequel to Gates' sad, sad Christmas Pumpkins video. Meanwhile, when it comes to David S. Pumpkins himself…

He's already appeared a second time

In May 2017, seven months after he first appeared, Hanks came back to close out SNL's 42nd season, once again donning the pumpkin suit to appear in the Kenan Thompson-led sketch "Rap Song." The big difference? His name in the sketch is the so-bad-it's-good (or-maybe-it's-just-bad) "David S. Pimpkins." Yep.

While the cameo was certainly a delight to the fans who tuned in that night, it was hardly the follow-up appearance that a character as charmingly stupid as David S. Pumpkins deserves. And that's why NBC isn't messing around in 2017. That's right…

He's back in a big way

In September 2017, nearly a year after he first played the role, Tom Hanks tweeted a teaser image of some script pages that seemed to indicate that David S. Pumpkins would soon be coming back to Saturday Night Live for a true sequel video. After all, Halloween season was only a month away, so it stood to reason that SNL's writers were getting a head start on Pumpkinsmania. But it turned out that was only half the story.

A couple weeks after the tweet, NBC issued a press release to announce that Hanks and the sketch's writers—Moynihan, Day, and Streeter Seidell—would all be offering their voices to the 30-minute animated David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special, joined by Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage. (Of course.)

So! What's this half-hour animated special based on a four-and-a-half minute sketch about? According to the release, the show is "set in a small suburban town on All Hallows' Eve," and focuses "on David Pumpkins and his skeleton sidekicks who show a young boy and his sister the true meaning of Halloween, answering none of their questions along the way."

Will the show manage to recapture the fun, nonsensical spirit of the sketch? Or will it wear out its welcome even more quickly than Bill Gates in a Christmas tree suit? We'll know for sure on October 28. Until then, better practice your dance moves.