“Quit talking about his body in that shirt, man. It’s not what we want to know about right now.” This is Mikey Day when I meet him at a restaurant located at the bottom of Rockefeller Center. Day is joking about this whole interview being written in an almost “ogling” tone, as you often see from gross male writers when doing an interview with an actor who happens to be a woman. I nixed the idea because, considering how much of an admirer I am of Day’s work, I’m afraid people might think I was serious. (Though, for the record: Day did look nice in the shirt he was wearing.)
Day has had an extraordinary run (his first as a cast member) on this pivotal season of Saturday Night Live. What’s unusual is that, in a season that’s been scoring insanely high ratings based on its political coverage (and, yes, Day plays both Donald Trump Jr. and Steve Bannon, as the Grim Reaper) Day’s breakthrough sketch work has been almost strangely non-political. We will see something like Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump in the cold open, and then maybe Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer – then all of a sudden there’s Day and Chris Pine dancing around with cotton candy and performing a backpack fashion show. Or he’s hosting a game show that consists of shoving pies into McCarthy’s face.
What Day is trading in — often with his writing partner, Streeter Seidell — are the ever-so-hard “evergreen sketches.” The kind of sketch that will still be funny ten years from as opposed to, say, maybe a sketch from 2005 about Tila Tequila. Day poo-poos this a bit, saying that he just writes what he finds funny. Which is fair, but what he finds funny has already found its way into the popular culture zeitgeist.
Everyone knows who David S. Pumpkins is now. We will be seeing David S. Pumpkins Halloween costumes for probably the rest of our lives. Last season, Day co-wrote two other sketches that are still quoted on a routine basis: Jonathan Comets singing “Space Pants” and Larry David as Kevin Roberts asking, “Can a bitch get a donut?” Or, as Day calls the trio, “A squad of loud people who derail people’s experiences.” And that’s not even mentioning the sketch when Kylo Ren shows up on Undercover Boss (which Day also discusses ahead).
This was Day’s first interview since joining SNL. I bring this up because I almost felt hesitant bringing up David S. Pumpkins (and it’s very far into what turned out to be a two and a half hour interview) in an almost, “I bet you get asked about this all the time” kind of way, before being reminded he’s never really spoken about it publicly. (After the sketch aired in October, SNL was flooded with media requests to get the story behind this sketch. They were all denied, instead taking the approach that it should speak for itself. At least until now.)
Warning: this is a very nerdy interview. Mikey Day is incredibly quick with a Star Wars or a Thundercats or a Ninja Turtles reference – and I could not resist taking the bait every time. (At one point we dissect the plot of The Phantom Menace.) But it should give you an idea what’s like to spend some time with Day, who is a whirlwind of popular culture knowledge. (Which, if you’ve ever seen his sketches, really shouldn’t surprise you at all.) I would love to end this intro by writing “Any questions?,” David S. Pumpkins’ signature line. Hopefully, though, you will have fewer questions now.
I never know what to do with lunch interviews. Am I actually supposed to eat?
I know, I’ll probably get something light.
Like a steak.
Well done. Were you at Star Wars Celebration?
No, I was at SNL that weekend.
You interviewed Hamill at Sundance? You’ve met them all, right?
I’ve interviewed Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford. I never met Carrie Fisher. With Harrison, I remember Mosquito Coast was a topic.
I’d love to talk to him about Mosquito Coast.
And how he came up with the “I know” line and shooting the swordsman in Raiders on set.
Wasn’t he like sick or something?
Yeah, he had dysentery.
“Can we just shoot the guy?”
I wondered if there were scenes he had changed but we didn’t know about. He said there were, but wouldn’t elaborate.