Adam Sandler: America's Comedian

Adam Sandler: America's Comedian

by Bill Crawford

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From the comedy clubs of New York to his big break on "Saturday Night Live" to block-buster films like "Big Daddy" and "Little Nicky" Adam Sandler has left America howling in their seats and peeing in their pants. Sandler has emerged as the decade's most unstoppable comedic-and the ladies love him! But how many people know the story behind this lovable comedic prodigy's ascent to fame? Bill Crawford takes you back to Sandler's childhood in a small New Hampshire Town, where his stand-up routines were always hits with his classmates but not necessarily the teachers! When Adam left his small town to take on the big city at New York University, it wasn't always easy, Sandler performed as a street musician crooning Springsteen songs to commuters, but he was destined to succeed. From his long friendship with then college classmate Tim Herlihy, who went on to co-write all Sandler's movies, to being discovered by Dennis Miller and eventually becoming America's funnyman, Bill Crawford looks behind the headlines and tabloid tales to shed new light on this decade's comedic darling.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250091307
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/21/2015
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 281 KB

About the Author

Bill Crawford is the author of several books, including Stevie Ray Vaugn and Rock Stars Do The Dumbest Things.
Bill Crawford is a pop-culture journalist and the co-author of Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught in the Crossfire. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Read an Excerpt

Adam Sandler

America's Comedian

By Bill Crawford

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2000 Bill Crawford
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-09130-7


the boy who grew up to be a boy

Have you ever wondered about the real Adam Sandler? Is he truly obsessed by mass murderers, necrophiliacs, and psychotics who cut off their own hands? After minutes of research, we can honestly report that beneath the retarded, slow-talking, poop-burning, wall-peeing, giggling hyperactive Adam Sandler exterior lies a kind, gentle, brilliant, and caring human being. Adam Sandler is one of the most successful guys in Hollywood. And one of the nicest guys anywhere.

Not only is he nice, but he's one of the world's greatest geniuses. He's a theoretical physicist who often spends his mornings contemplating the quark. At lunch, you can find him meeting with ambassadors and heads of state, pondering the most recent developments in Kyrgyzstan before he heads to the lab to conduct Nobel Prize–winning cancer research. In the evening, Adam enjoys nothing more than cooking Tuscan cuisine for his wife, listening to Verdi's operas, patting his golden retriever, and playing Yahtzee with his two adorable children, Felicity and Edward.

Fooled ya! With Adam Sandler, what you see on the screen is pretty much what you get in real life. He is a fun-loving jokester, a guy who likes to fool around with his buddies, make out with beautiful women, party, play the guitar, sing songs, fart, pee, and create silly movies.

Adam makes being funny look easy. But it takes hours of work, months of preparation, and years of training to come up with the right punch line at the right time delivered just right. Adam's dedication to nuttiness has paid off to the tune of $30 million plus per movie — and as long as audiences keep laughing at him, Adam Sandler gets to laugh all the way to the bank, the bar, the Jacuzzi, the Lear jet, or wherever else he wants to go. Adam Sandler is the smartest dumb comedian in this or any other universe.

Whence did this fountain of humorous creativity spring? Was Adam Sandler bioengineered in a top-secret government installation dedicated to the creation of a super race of idiotic buffoons? I don't think so.

Adam was born September 9, 1966, his sun in Virgo and his moon in Cancer. His parents, Stan and Judy Sandler, were two ordinary everyday people making their home in Brooklyn, New York. Stan was an electrical engineer, Judy a homemaker. Adam grew up with three older siblings: a brother, Scott, and two sisters, Elizabeth and Valerie.

As a young kid, Adam was close to his immediate family and his grandparents, who always seemed to hang around. Brooklyn was a place where a nice Jewish boy like Adam could explore the spiritual heritage of his people, get into a fight, or just sit around, suck his toes, and imitate his dad's sneeze. "He goes 'Ayeestra!'" Adam later explained. "It sounds like a Hebrew word."

Adam looks back fondly on childhood, especially on his mother's home cooking. "My mom made the best lasagna, with a lot of meat in there," Adam confessed. As Adam grew into manhood he became increasingly fond of Tombstone pizza with green peppers and onions.

Adam was just getting used to his Brooklyn 'hood when his parents moved the family to Manchester, New Hampshire. Why Manchester? Most likely, Adam's folks made the move because they wanted to enjoy the quality of life in picturesque New England. "I worship New England," Adam once gushed. "Everytime I drive in New England, I'm happy. The only problem is the amount of doughnuts I eat at Dunkin' Donuts there." Cream-filled Bavarian. Honey-glazed raised. Rich, chocolate-covered cake. All the best varieties of deep-fried dough are available at the Dunkin' Donuts in Manchester, along the banks of the Merrimack River.

The Sandlers arrived in the city of Manchester, New Hampshire (current population 103,330, excluding lobsters), just in time for Adam to join Mrs. Chris Kendall's first-grade class at Manchester's Webster Elementary. The school was named for Daniel Webster, the great New Hampshire nineteenth-century orator, who ended many a memorable speech by passing out dead drunk.

As they say in New England: Boss. Wicked. Or at least Adam thought the school was wicked. When recess came on his first day of school, Adam picked up his lunch box, ran home, and explained to his mother that he wasn't cut out for first grade. That story wasn't good enough for Judy Sandler, and Adam's mom took him back to school.

But Adam was a determined young man who firmly believed in following his own path. On the second day of first grade, he followed his own path away from school and back home again. Only this time, he didn't go straight to his mom. Mrs. Kendall called Mrs. Sandler and asked, "Is Adam there?" Adam's mom checked around the house and discovered her youngest child hiding in the shrubbery. Years later, Mrs. Kendall recalled, "His first couple of days were real teary-eyed."

Adam's mother dried Adam's tears, convinced him to make it through first grade, and even organized a bridal shower for Mrs. Kendall. All the kids in Adam's class brought safe, nonthreatening kitchen implements to school and presented them to the teacher. Young Adam went even further. After he had a close encounter with Mrs. Kendall's boyfriend at a Service Merchandise store, Adam composed an essay for Mrs. Kendall. "He's funny," Adam wrote, describing his first-grade teacher's love object. "He looks like Sonny." Sonny who? Sonny Bono, of course, the late comedian turned congressman.

Like most American youth, Adam spent much of his most formative years staring at a television set. His real education came from shows like The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour (1971–74). Television in the early 1970s not only showcased the elbow-breaking humor of the couple who sang "The Beat Goes On" and wore fur vests, it also offered Happy Days; Welcome Back, Kotter; and The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. "I grew up in a nice home where it was important to make each other laugh," Adam recalled. "I have a brother, two sisters, and my parents and grandparents were always around. We used to watch a lot of movies with Jerry Lewis, the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello."

Adam enjoyed watching the boob tube with his dad, who appreciated the great, schlocky horror films in addition to black-and-white comedies. Adam recalled, "My dad just — all he did was let me do my thing. He like — my dad was watching creature double feature every Saturday, just 'cause I wanted to, and he didn't even bat an eye. He was just like, 'All right, Godzilla versus Rodan, let's do it.'" Even if Godzilla crushed buildings or Groucho Marx flicked his cigar way into the night, Stan Sandler still allowed young Adam to watch the goofy stuff with him, and Adam was thrilled when his father yelled from the TV room, "Get in here."

Images from Marx Brothers movies such as Animal Crackers(1930), Monkey Business (1931), and A Night at the Opera (1935), soaked into Adam's brain along with Jerry Lewis screaming, falling, and sticking out his teeth in movies like The Geisha Boy(1958), Cinderfella (1960), The Nutty Professor (1963), and The Disorderly Orderly (1964). Years later, Adam talked about his early influences, and when asked if he would ever put Jerry Lewis in one of his movies, said, "Yeah, someday that'd be excellent." Adam continued, "Comedians owe him a lot — every part of show biz does. He was a major force and still is a major force. I respect the man greatly and would love to work with him."

In the early 1970s, the Sandlers went on holiday to the Catskill Mountains in New York. There, in the resort area known as the borscht belt because of its popularity with families descended from Eastern European Jews, Adam experienced stand-up comedy for the first time. "This guy was missing a finger," Adam recalled. "My dad was laughing his butt off. My brother loved the guy. I was just staring." Adam's dad also loved to listen to comedy albums by Rodney Dangerfield. "I couldn't believe how hard my dad laughed. ..."

When he wasn't watching or hanging around with his father, Adam did what other kids did. He played ball. He went to school. He dressed up on Halloween. "Dracula was fun because of the fake teeth. My dad made me a cape. It was red on the inside and zebra on the outside. It was kind of a Lenny Kravitz Dracula."

At age eight Adam entered a neighborhood Punt, Pass, and Kick competition and won, "I was the only kid in my age bracket. I wanted to pretend that I was the champion but it really was because I was the only kid there." For a while, Adam dreamed of being a professional athlete. "I wanted to be a baseball player," he confessed. "But, uh, I was very slow running to that first base. I was the only kid in Little League who could hit one to the wall and get thrown out at first base."

Although he wasn't a standout, Adam always liked sports, especially basketball. He liked to knock around with his buddies, shooting hoops. Most of the fun was just hanging out, being goofy, and cracking up his gang. Adam started to loosen up. "Until sixth grade, I did really well in school. All of a sudden, I said, 'I can't read and be so serious in class anymore.' I don't know why, but I just started to have fun."

Adam loved being funny in class. But he claimed that his funniest moments came when he was in elementary school and went to the movies. He didn't really like to watch the movies. What he really liked was yelling jokes at the screen and making the whole theater laugh. "I'd always say five jokes, and there would be four power laughs. And then the fifth one I would say, 'Hey, nice hair!' or something like that, and somebody would go, 'Hey, shut up,' and then it would just take away the other four jokes I killed on — everyone turned on me. But that was definitely the place where I was funny."

Sometimes, Adam performed for his family, especially his mom. He'd sing songs for her like "The Candy Man," which was a big hit for Sammy Davis, Jr., and "Maria," a song from the musical West Side Story. "I used to sing in the car for my mom," Adam recalled. "My mom liked Barbra Streisand a lot."

When Adam's mom scolded him, he used a show biz technique to change her mood. He'd record her voice and played the tape back to her. If Adam could get his mom to laugh, she'd forget about punishing him. According to Adam's brother, Scott, "He'd keep her happy most of the time."

Even as a kid, Adam performed in public. "My first public performance was singing 'House of the Rising Sun,'" Adam recalled. "It was in a seventh-grade talent show. I remember my mother driving me home afterward, and she said, 'You kept cracking your voice.' So she thought I didn't nail it. But I thought I was pretty good."

Adam got interested in girls pretty early. He got particularly interested in making out with girls like the twins Patty and Pam Mulroy. When Adam first kissed Patty, he didn't close his eyes. "I was young. ... I guess I like watching — just seeing things while kissing, you know?"

When Adam was in the sixth grade, eating dinner with his family, he remembers, "My mom said, 'Adam, Kim's on the phone.' And I said to my dad, 'See that? The girls are calling.' I got on the phone and said hello. And then I hear, 'This is Kim.' And she tells me the girl I was dating wants to break up with me. I said, 'Okay.' I walked back to the table, and my dad says, 'How'd that go?' I said, 'Good.' He said, 'What'd she say?' I told him, 'She said she was excited to see me tomorrow.' He said, 'All right. Good job.' And then I stared at my plate and tried not to cry the whole dinner."

(Adam had better luck with women as he got older. "I had an old lady pinch my cheek once," he bragged. "And then slowly she slid her finger inside my mouth. And then proceeded to slide it in and out for about half an hour. And that old lady never bothered to call me the next day." Adam sighed, "I don't know how it happened. A simple finger in my mouth and now I'm pregnant.")

Things weren't all clam chowder and matzo for Adam. Like all kids, he got picked on sometimes. He was getting off the school bus in front of a temple for Hebrew school once, and a kid made a crack about Adam being Jewish. Adam pounded the meathead. "I had my moments of being humiliated, and then I had moments of doing something humiliating," Adam says. "I'm glad I lived out both roles. But as an almost-adult — I'm supposed to be an adult, but my head is not quite there yet — and as I get smarter, I do realize how much more I like people who get humiliated or have a rough time. I'd rather write about them. I don't know why. It's more interesting than a winner."

Adam built his writing and performing career around being a champion for the underdog, the completely misunderstood weirdo with a heart of gold. But even more than his experiences growing up, one single movie probably did the most to instill in the young Adam Sandler a love for comedy and a desire to create funny stuff. That movie was Caddyshack.

Caddyshack came out in 1980, the year that the Sandman turned fourteen. One of the dumbest golf comedies of all time, Caddyshack told the story of Bushwood Country Club, where Carl Spackler, the greenskeeper (played by Bill Murray), has to contend with a rich duffer, Al Czervik, played by Rodney Dangerfield, a playboy, Ty Webb, played by Chevy Chase, and a bunch of nasty gophers. Audiences liked the moronic nonsense on the loopy links. Adam didn't just like the movie. He loved it. He claimed that he watched Caddyshack over three hundred times and memorized it to impress his brother. Caddyshack twisted a relatively normal young man with a New Hampshire accent and inspired him to take up a life of comedy.

Adam later talked about the influence of Caddyshack on his work, particularly on the characters he created and introduced to the TV show Saturday Night Live in the early 1990s. "Carl the assistant greenskeeper? Yeah, he would be good friends with the Canteen Boy. Except Carl had a violent streak in him. He said he would slice the guy's hamstring. The Canteen Boy would never hurt anyone in his life. He's afraid of violence. He's a peacemaker."

When he felt like he got no respect, Adam used Rodney Dangerfield lines on his dad. "My favorite comic when I was getting into it was Rodney Dangerfield," Adam recalled. "Rodney was definitely the first guy whose shit I memorized. I'd walk around my house doing Rodney jokes for my dad, and he would laugh."

Adam was equally inspired by Bill Murray and Chevy Chase. He was young, but he knew full well that the two stars of Caddyshack got their start on the TV show Saturday Night Live before they got into the movies. Adam saw the road to side-splitting comedy success early on. If he could get a gig on Saturday Night Live, then maybe someday he could make a movie as fantastic as Caddyshack.

Adam not only picked up material from Caddyshack. He also got into Cheech and Chong records, memorizing a bunch of routines by the comedy team that made a fortune out of acting like dumb dudes on dope. He even picked up bits and pieces of humor from his family. "He's always been funny," his mom said, "he always woke up in a good mood."

Did Adam get wasted when he was in high school? His picture in the Manchester Central High School yearbook looks like that of a brilliant genius, or an idiot ... or maybe both. With frizzy hair and a goofy grin, it's possible that Adam did hang out with partiers in high school, but probably no more so than anyone else. Lucky for Adam, he was close to his parents, who were supportive, loving, and kind. The only thing that bothered Stan Sandler was his son's 'fro haircut.

When his father told him, "You know, you got to get a haircut," Adam thought, "What is the matter with that old man? Doesn't he know how cool I look?" But looking back at the prom pictures, Adam admitted, "I feel sorry for every girl."

Adam was a good kid, a happy kid who listened to his parents in high school. But still he realized that the best way for a high school guy with a bad haircut to get chicks was to be a rock star. "I grew up listening to a lot of music, and I still do," Adam explained. "I certainly liked the Beatles a lot growing up and the Who and Springsteen."

Even in later years, Adam admitted that the Beatles still held a powerful influence over him. "They definitely can alter my mood faster than anything in my life. A pure Beatles song can make me happy or devastate me."

Adam started playing his guitar and singing with his buddies. He played a red Gibson SG solid body electric guitar and formed garage bands with names like Spectrum, Storm, and Final Warning. Years later, Adam reused the name Final Warning for his band in the movie The Waterboy (1998). Adam even organized a battle of the bands at his high school and managed to make a pretty good showing. At least good enough to give him the courage to try and pick up the senior class hottie, Linda St. Martin.

Every day, Adam came into class and asked his dream girl, "Linda, when are you going to go out with me?" And every day, Linda turned to Adam Sandler and said, "Adam, not until hell freezes over." Too bad for Linda.


Excerpted from Adam Sandler by Bill Crawford. Copyright © 2000 Bill Crawford. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


title page,
copyright notice,
1. the boy who grew up to be a boy,
2. a stand-up kind of guy,
3. it's saturday night!,
4. shakes, airheads, mixed nuts, and billy madison,
5. the good, the bad, and, oh yeah, the girls,
6. many weddings and a funeral,
7. the waterboy and big daddy,
8. adam lets it all hang out: the adam sandler cds,
9. adam versus the critics,
10. team sandler,
11. adam into the future,
12. adam sandler, censorship, and dirty words,
13. oeuvre: the collected works of adam sandler,
about the author,

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