In the viral Tom Hanks SNL sketch “Haunted Elevator”—which was revived last weekend for a half-hour animated special—a couple enters a haunted house-themed theme park ride where questionably spooky denizens lurk around every corner. One of these haunted-house residents is a man by the name of David S. Pumpkins, played by Hanks. He emerges out of nowhere from time to time; he’s not scary, and it’s never entirely clear why he’s there. There is no joke—it’s the ultimate anti-joke. It’s not surprising Hanks might have been somewhat skeptical of the premise when he was first recruited to play the part.
An entire cottage industry of David S. Pumpkins memes sprung up almost immediately when the sketch aired last year; it was impossible to log on without seeing a David S. Pumpkins meme, a gif of his manic, “Any questions?” the perfect response to, well, everything.
The only resemblance between Hanks and his character, who he has since reprised twice, is an apparent tendency to show up in unexpected contexts and a tendency to then go viral. Take, for example, his recent appearance at the Texas Book Festival. Hanks was participating in a question-and-answer session about his new book, Uncommon Type: Some Stories, a collection of 17 short stories, each featuring “a different antique manual typewriter,” according to NPR, when he halted the questions, telling the audience he was tired of their questions. (As anyone who has observed an audience-sourced Q&A would probably attest, same.) So instead, he pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and declared that an attendee, one Ryan McFarling, had a question for another, one Nikki Young. With that introduction, he proceeded to read the question: “Will you marry me?”
The blissful couple went on stage; he knelt; and she accepted a ring. Hanks, now fully implicated in this fulfillment of the wedding industrial complex, gave them both a hug, and then, as a photographer snapped a photo to commemorate the occasion, Hanks gently grasped McFarling’s arm, one hand on his shoulder, while standing at a slight distance. Not uncomfortable at all.
But regardless of any slight awkwardness, McFarling and Young have the best proposal story of all time. For if we can’t have Hanks as our celebrity-in-chief, at least we can know he’s out there playing matchmaker.
Chris Pine's first audition was for 'Gilmore Girls':