(Re-)Enter Sandman

Adam Sandler’s new Netflix special revisits his comedy roots

Greta Kooy // News Editor

Finally taking a break from filming comedy classics like The Ridiculous 6 (joking), Adam Sandler made his long overdue return to stand-up comedy with his Netflix special Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh. Despite what the title suggests, the special isn’t cutting edge. Sandler’s routine and songs are new, but it errs on the side of all too predictable. That being said, Sandler has acknowledged in the past that he’s doing it for his audience and not the reviews, which he told Howard Stern during his 2015 interview, he doesn’t “give a fuck” about. If anything, the title acts as a middle finger to the critics who’ve been dowsing Sandler’s work with negative reviews for the last couple of decades. And honestly, good on him. The Brooklyn-born comedian is truly an icon, and though most of the movies we’ve seen him in recently are complete flops, he still deserves our attention.

Sandler became a writer for Saturday Night Live in 1990 after being discovered by comedian Dennis Miller. Before that, Sandler appeared on The Cosby Show in 1987 as Smitty and alongside stars Chris Farley and Dan Aykroyd in the 1993 classic Coneheads. Outside of acting and stand-up, Sandler also released comedy albums, a couple of which did very well. He’s also known for songs like “The Chanukah Song”, which appeared on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 1999. Unfortunately, Sandler shelved working on albums and stand-up routines once he had become a box office regular.

His breakthrough into Hollywood was followed by iconic Sandler films like Billy Madison (1995), Happy Gilmore (1996) and The Waterboy (1998). Since then, he’s experimented with more serious roles, such as George Simmons in Judd Apatow’s Funny People (2009) but has kept up appearances in forgettable comedies like Jack and Jill (2011) and The Do-Over (2016).

Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh is the comedian’s first comedy special since his HBO What the Hell Happened to Me? special in 1996. His Netflix special is a coordinated mashup of footage pulled from a recent tour, which, keep in mind, allows editors to pick and choose which clips captured the best joke landings and Sandler delivery. Despite this, it’s a fun special to watch and his energy throughout is undeniable. One clip features Sandler performing the same bit in a New York City subway station, disguised as a busker in a large hoodie, puffy jacket and sunglasses. What little attention he gets in the station is negative, but he doesn’t care. As he sings “Grandma died today/I guess I’ll go to a bingo game and steal somebody else’s grandma and hope that my dumb kids can’t tell the difference” he laughs at his own dumb material and disregards the judge-y onlookers. It’s great.

A little musically overweight, his special isn’t outside of the bubble of his usual shtick. While he didn’t completely ditch the arguably played-out accents, Sandler is surprisingly raw and somewhat vulnerable, still keeping his jokes dramatic yet relatable.

There are serious moments too – a Chris Farley tribute and a song Sandler wrote for his wife Jackie (a twist on his classic “I Wanna Grow Old With You” from the Wedding Singer), which, admittedly, had me in tears. He ends the special with an acknowledgment to his audience, saying “this goes for all of you guys here tonight, thanks for growing old with me”, rolling a montage of clips from old movies, specials and SNL skits in the background.

The ending was what changed my mind – I went into watching his new special expecting something unusual and contemporary, but what I got was something so distinctively Adam Sandler that I couldn’t not like it. If his recent work suggests anything about what the comedian’s future looks like, we can expect to see more of Adam Sandler the iconic comedian, and not Adam Sandler the has-been.

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