The first time I saw Adam Sandler was actually on that one show about the Huxtable family. He played one of Theo’s friends and I don’t think he had any lines. I didn’t know it was him for years. Somehow got a glorified extra spot on TV’s number one show And did what he did best, make funny faces and act kind kind of awkward trying not to laugh. He was mildly off putting and endearing all at once. That pretty much describes all of his early stand up too. There was kind of a “oh good for him” type of pity to his success. Like Mel Torme’s enthusiasm for Kramer on that episode of Seinfeld when Cosmo accidentally crashed a fundraiser for the handicapped.
I once attempted to watch a movie he made called Going Overboard which begins with him saying “ this not a low budget film, it is a NO budget film.” It was him as a waiter on a cruise ship wanting to become a comedian. I had to turn it off, it was so bad.
Of course Sandler became a star on Saturday Night Live. Characters such as Canteen Boy, made him famous, but where he really excelled was giving him a guitar and telling him to fill 5 minutes on weekend update with a song. Be it as Opera man or doing the lunch Lady song with Farley, Sandler was actually beloved for his constant struggles to keep from laughing either at his costars or at himself. This 2 step playbook proved so effective that Jimmy Fallon unabashedly stole it and ran with it all the way to Burbank and the Tonight show.
Although it was during his years on SNL (which at the time were universally panned as awful, and ushered in the “new cast and n 1995 led by WIll Ferrel) that I started to watch SNL religiously, it was his comedy Albumns that had the most profound moment no act on me. They were vaguely pornographic and explicitly juvenile. But with titles like “Stan and Judy’s Kid” and “What the Hell happened to me?” Sandler continued to represent himself in that pitiable but endearing manner. He made himself the butt of his jokes. Self deprecation without sacrificing his comedic integrity. That’s hard to do, but he made it seem easy.
So there was a point when Adam grew up from playing slap stick characters like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore or Little Nicky and just started playing Adam Sandler in his movies. And that point was Big Daddy. And it makes sense, he had to grow up as an actor and advance his career. His appeal and earnings potential skyrocketed in response.
Still his funniest moments of all time in my mind are over the top angers outbursts, speaking gibberish (Billy Madison), singing songs, or trying not to laugh at Farley.
The last thing I actually saw him in was his Netflix comedy special 100% Fresh, which was kind of disappointing to me because it sounds like It should be Sandler doing the White Rapper trope set in the eighties. Like seriously, a mockumentery about a white rapper who was an under ground legend that was kept secret by some Hip Hop Mafia fronted by Def Jam, who was supposed to be released on the world as this revolution only to be eclipsed by one day by the release of Ice Ice Baby?
And speaking of which, the penultimate Adam Sandler vehicle I have seen was the Ridiculous 6 which was in fact Ridiculous, but Robby VanWinkle’s portrayal of Mark Twain is a must see. I mean given that The Sand man and The Ice man were on set together at some point I have to think the White Rapper movie idea had to come up at some point. But Sandler probably can’t rap. That must be the hold up.
Sandler’s characters often carry that twinge of self loathing that harkens back to the off putting but endearing quality I mentioned at the start. The pain and shame in the eyes of the Waterboy, or the guilt of Paul Crewe in the Longest Yard, to regret fueled revenge of White Knife in The Ridiculous 6, is something I began emulating from Sandler in my formative years. And while Sandler parlayed that into a Multimillion Dollar career, I have, not really done quite exactly as much as he maybe totally has with it, when it comes to using it to further my own things in my own life, in my own way, with it and stuff.
While Sandler’s characters may have had their share of humiliation and self doubt that made them pitiful or pitiable, they had “no shame” in showing up with that shame. As Woody Allen says “80% of success is just showing up.”
Sandler’s characters and career prove that showing up humiliated can be even better than showing up and covering up or hiding it.
Shame is only shame if it keeps you from doing what you want. Otherwise it’s just the price of success.
That’s a lesson I may have learned too late, but looking back on the last 39 years it would seem to be true.
So at this point you may be asking “Tony, why does everything alway comeback to shame and despair with you?” Well I’m a therapist that’s why!
But there is another aspect of Adam Sandler that is pure unadulterated joy and fun. His stuff is rewatchable because it is very much simply caught up in the fun of the moment. I mean what kid doesn’t love singing a silly song? Sandler brought that to adulthood. It’s really the same as how I described Carlos. So as a kid growing up, when I imagined myself being an entertainer, Sandler inspired me from both directions.