After 30 years of upholding goofball comedy and baggy basketball shorts, Adam Sandler has been honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor for his contributions to the art of making people laugh. In a ceremony at the Kennedy Center, the Saturday Night Live alum was celebrated by his former castmates and collaborators, including Conan O’Brien, Judd Apatow, Rob Schneider, Robert Smigel, Steve Buscemi, Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, and Chris Rock.
Over the course of the evening, Sandler’s friends and colleagues took the stage to not only take some digs at the comedian, but reflect on the communal nature of his career, and how’s he created work for himself and those around him for the last three decades.
“Have you asked yourself why so many of Adam’s friends were available?” O’Brien said (per The Hollywood Reporter). “Because if Adam isn’t working, they aren’t working.”
During his speech, Apatow added, “Apparently, the best job opportunities at NYU were living in the vicinity of Adam Sandler.”
Sandler’s career has not always been on the receiving end of acclaim. Despite his box office success over the years (with a combined $3 billion in sales, according to NPR), his dopey and playful comedy stylings have not made him a critical darling by any means. Over the years however, his singular presence has become applauded, with his turns in non-comedic roles further bolstering his reputation as a distinct talent.
In his toast, O’Brien joked that the Mark Twain Prize is the “first award he’s ever received where he hasn’t been slimed.” Earlier this month, Sandler attended the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards where he received the King of Comedy Award, in addition to a healthy dose of slime. When you’re Adam Sandler, you can earn a Kids’ Choice Award and one of the highest comedic honors within the span of a few weeks.
“His work feels effortless,” Stiller said of Sandler’s comedy. “I don’t want to say ‘lazy,’ because that’s not the right word… but I don’t have a better word right now, so let’s go with it.”
Once again attesting to Sandler’s affinity for taking care of others in his circle, Buscemi took the stage and said, “Nobody makes me laugh like you and nobody has taken better care of me in this business than you. He does this for all his friends. He’s done this for so many people. ... But for me, I think the best part of working with Adam, with you, is just getting to hang out with you, man.”
When it was finally his time to approach the stage, Sandler said, “As I look at this goofy award I’m holding, I just can’t help but think this just may be the weapon used to bludgeon me, by an angry intruder… or Mr. Rob Schneider.”
He continued, “When someone asks me: Those bad reviews you get—how does that make you feel? The reason they don’t hurt me is because [my friends and I are having so much fun making these movies]. Everything we do together makes me feel like the critics don’t know what they’re talking about.”
In an retrospective on Sandler’s varied career, SNL creator and staunch Sandler supporter Lorne Michaels said, “The nature of comedy is you get the audience, you get the money. Respect is the last thing you get.”