When comedian Adam Sandler hosted “Saturday Night Live” last month, he had a score to settle. The show where he first flexed his comedy chops unceremoniously fired him in 1995 despite his popularity. He returned to Studio 8H and directly addressed the issue during a song in the opening monologue.
“I was fired, I was fired. NBC said that I was done,” sang Sandler, 52, during the May 4 live broadcast. “Then I made over four billion dollars at the box office, so I guess you could say I won.”
Despite his box office success, the road hasn't been easy for Sandler, who performs his first-ever show at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater on Thursday, June 20. The press has never been kind, calling him a "man-child" and labeling his films "grotesquely offensive” plus nominating him for 35 Razzie awards (he won nine of them). In fact, Sandler even named his latest comedy special, "100% Fresh" as a pun on Rotten Tomatoes' film scoring system. Sandler recently told Howard Stern on SiriusXM, "On Rotten Tomatoes all my movies get zeros and stuff so we figured just put '100% Fresh' and get, one time in my life, a good score."
“Critics have a tendency to critique on a different scale than Sandler is on,” says actor/comedian Kevin Nealon, who has worked with Sandler on “SNL” and multiple films. “But he has stuck to what makes him laugh and what he thinks is funny, obviously a lot of people agree.”
Mike Reistetter, 23, of Hauppauge has a special affection for Sandler’s comedies as he grew up regularly watching them with his family.
“Sandler's films really formed my own sense of humor and attitude of not taking things too seriously and always getting a laugh in when you get a chance,” he says. “Critics don’t get him, but we get him and that’s what matters most.”
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Over the past 30 years, Sandler has made more than 40 films where he has portrayed characters ranging from the hot-tempered ice hockey player turned golf pro Happy Gilmore (1996’s “Happy Gilmore”) to the sad but sweet wedding singer Robbie Hart (1998’s “The Wedding Singer”).
“Adam is a traditionalist in his comedic inspirations. He has a Chaplin streak of making the audience always root for him,” says Rob Schneider, who was on “SNL” with Sandler and has appeared in more than 20 films with him (Schneider opens the Jones Beach show). “His secret is there’s always a sense of impending danger. But even if his character nearly explodes at times, there’s never any trace of malice.”
Sandler fans have a strong loyalty to him due to his familial comedy style and reliability.
“Adam comes across as a decent, normal dude who would be great to get a beer and watch a football game with,” says Wilson Smith, 30, who co-hosts the Sandler-focused “Billy Gilmore Podcast.” “He has a very loyal audience who has stuck with him over the decades of his career. The folks who grew up wearing out VHS tapes of ‘Billy Madison’ are now showing their kids ‘Hotel Transylvania’ on Blu-ray.”
There's a connection Sandler makes with fans through his playful demeanor and easy manner.
“What makes Adam special is his personality. He’s magnetic because he’s so charismatic,” says Jenn Woodason, 39, of Blue Point. “Any charismatic person has more attractiveness to me than the most handsome hunk who works out 27 times a day.”
Comedian Chris Monty feels the key to Sandler’s success is not just being funny.
“There’s a vulnerability to Sandler,” says Monty, 46, who grew up in Elmont. “He can play the loser as well as the wiseguy. It makes him accessible.”
Stand-up comic Rich Walker remembers seeing Sandler on “An Evening at the Improv” and getting inspired by his delivery.
“I emulate his kind of comedy,” says Walker, 54, of Deer Park. “The audience feels my angst and sees the torture in my mannerisms. The way I talk to the audience is Adam Sandler-ish.”
What also makes Sandler stand out is the way he incorporates music into his act as he will do at Jones Beach for his "100% Fresher" tour.
“You don’t see comedians doing that anymore,” says stand-up comic Anthony DiDomenico, 39, of Bellmore. “If you pull out a guitar, things could very easily go horribly wrong, but Adam pulls it off.”
Of course, no holiday season is complete without hearing “The Chanukah Song” in heavy rotation.
“Growing up as a Jewish kid, there were all these Christmas songs that are played constantly. There was never anything about Chanukah,” says David Seth Cohen, 43, who grew up in Plainview (see sidebar). “When Adam came out with ‘The Chanukah Song’ it made me feel cool to be Jewish.”
In fact, one of Sandler’s most recent musical moments came at the end of his “SNL” episode where he brought the house down with “Farley,” an acoustic ode to his late friend and fellow “SNL” cast member Chris Farley.
“Farley meant a lot to Sandman. They shared offices and were close friends,” says Nealon. “It was clear that he put a lot into the song. I thought it was a great way to end the show.”
Whether it be his fans or colleagues, people want to be part of Sandler’s team.
“Adam always has something special up his sleeve and the audience loves to watch him unfold it,” recalls Nealon. “They know it’s going to be silly, off-the-wall and he’s going to enjoy doing it.”
Schneider says, “Adam’s enthusiasm is and always has been irresistibly infectious. If he or someone else comes up with something really funny [on set], he literally jumps out of his chair with excitement. I believe that thrill of finding ‘the funny’ is still rewarding to him.”
WHEN/WHERE 8 p.m., Thursday, June 20, Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh
INFO 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
FAN FILMS ‘FINDING SANDLER’
In 1998, David Seth Cohen, who grew up in Plainview, came out of college as an aspiring filmmaker. Through his cousin’s best friend he landed an entry-level position as a production assistant to a costume designer on Adam Sandler’s film, “Big Daddy,” which was shot in Manhattan.
His job involved driving around the city, picking up and delivering clothes. One day while doubled parked, Cohen brought Sandler’s clothes to the front desk of his apartment building, but was instructed to hand-deliver them upstairs.
“When I knocked, Sandler started messing with me through the door screaming like he does in his movies saying, ‘Who is it? What do you want?’ ” Cohen, 43, claims. “Then he opened the door with a big smile and said, ‘Hey man, do you want to come in and have a drink?’ ”
Reluctantly, Cohen had to run.
“I said, ‘I can’t, I'm double parked with the accountant PA in the car, I have to drive her home and drop off the car,’ ” he says. “I passed up a drink with Adam Sandler and never got to hang out with him.”
As the years went by, the missed opportunity began to haunt Cohen.
“I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life working as a producer for a Catholic TV station,” says Cohen. “I’d stay up at night thinking, ‘What if I had that drink with Adam Sandler? Would my life be different?’ ”
Cohen took the dream as premonition and he went to California looking for Sandler.
“I wanted to go on a quest to find Adam and have that drink I passed up in 1998,” he says. “So I started building a film crew and making a movie.”
The documentary, called "Finding Sandler," is near complete as music is being added and it’s getting reviewed by attorneys. In the film, Cohen encounters Sandler again.
“Adam said to send him a cut of the film and we will talk about it,” says Cohen. “He was flattered that I made a big deal out of everything in my mind.” – David J. Criblez
SANDLER THE MOVIE MOGUL
In 1999, Adam Sandler opened his own production company, Happy Madison Productions where he made a bulk of his comedies such as “Grown Ups,” “Mr. Deeds,” “Anger Management,” “50 First Dates” plus films he developed for his buddies David Spade (“Joe Dirt,” “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star”), Kevin James (“Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “Zookeeper”) and Rob Schneider (“The Hot Chick,” “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo”).
“I was literally lost in the business after leaving ‘SNL’ and making a bunch of movies that for whatever reason just didn’t quite hit. Adam told me, ‘Write something and if it’s funny, I’ll produce it for you,’ ” says Schneider. “All I’ve ever wanted to do since I was a kid was to be a character actor and thanks to Adam Sandler I’ve been able to live that dream.”
Sandler made a move many considered risky when he stopped releasing his films theatrically and instead signed an exclusive deal with Netflix to distribute them via their streaming service.
“Sandler was able to see where our society is going,” says comedian Anthony DiDomenico, 39, of Bellmore. “He knew Netflix was a place he could go to make the movies he wanted without the box office pressure of Hollywood.”
Sandler superfan Michael Tuite, 35, of Yaphank, views the move as a swift one. “Sandler foresaw the changing tide to the business,” he says. “Now major stars are coming to Netflix. Without Adam Sandler making a deal like that maybe you wouldn’t have A-list actors like Sandra Bullock in ‘Bird Box’ or Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the upcoming Netflix film, ‘The Irishman.’ ” – David J. Criblez