11 Reveals From Adam Sandler’s First Howard Interview
'Ridiculous Six' Star Discusses Everything From 'SNL' to a Post-Bar Mitzvah Knife FightDecember 15, 2015
Legendary comedian Adam Sandler visited the Stern Show on Tuesday to promote his recently released Netflix film “Ridiculous Six.”
It marked the funnyman’s first visit to Howard’s studios, so naturally the two of them had a lot of great ground to cover, from his early days on “Saturday Night Live” to the time he got into a knife fight after a Bar Mitzvah.
Here are 11 of the best moments from the 90 minute, career-spanning interview:
1. Why Stand-Up and “SNL” (Still) Give Him Anxiety
Adam started doing stand-up while he was still in school at NYU. He was successful and it would eventually get him noticed by Dennis Miller, who later convinced “SNL” head honcho Lorne Michaels to give him a shot.
But Adam said he always gets anxiety before performing in front of live audiences, whether it’s an arena, “SNL,” or a short set on David Letterman’s “Late Show.”
“On ‘Saturday Night Live’ I was always better at dress rehearsal because in my brain I knew no one was seeing that one,” he told Howard. “I was loose.”
2. How Chris Farley Helped Him in the “SNL” Writer’s Room
Before he started performing on NBC’s iconic sketch comedy show, Adam spent a season proving himself in the writers’ room.
“Me and Chris Rock auditioned for the cast,” Adam explained. “Rock got on immediately, Lorne loved him, but Lorne — I had some interesting jokes, so he wanted me to be a writer on the show.”
He said pitching ideas to other talented comedians was stressful, but that his longtime friend and colleague Chris Farley helped him through it:
“We had the same thing about being nervous” in the writer’s room, he said. “But Farley used to give fake laughs for you if your skit was bombing. He’d laugh really hard.”
His first aired sketch, Adam said, starred Kevin Nealon and centered around a family eating a dinner, trying not to talk with their mouths’ full.
Of course, Adam would go on to become one “SNL’s” most famous players in the 1990s. He played many memorable recurring characters on the show, including the Stern Show’s own Gary Dell’Abate.
3. Who Really Fired Adam From “SNL”
Adam was one of “SNL’s” marquee writers and cast members for five years, but in 1995 the actor-comedian was fired. Howard asked Adam whether Lorne was the one who terminated him:
“He didn’t,” Sandler replied. “NBC fired me. … I think they just needed to make a move and get rid of — I was known as sophomoric… I think they had new brass, new guys were running it. They wanted to start over.”
4. But Branching Out From Lorne Was Ultimately the Best Thing for Him
Adam’s unceremonious “SNL” departure actually didn’t ruin his relationship with Lorne. In fact, he went to the big producer with his script for “Billy Madison” at one point, hoping he could help him film the comedy.
Lorne ultimately passed, but it may have been for the best because it set Adam on a new trajectory. He wound up finding someone at Universal to help him produce “Billy Madison” and later “Happy Gilmore,” and the rest was history.
“I was able to become my own guy,” he said.
Adam said he and Lorne are good now, by the way, and he has an open invitation to return to “SNL.”
5. How Drew Barrymore Helped Adam Become a Leading Man
Howard recounted a tale Adam’s frequent co-star Drew Barrymore told him when she visited the show in October. The iconic actress, who had purple hair and was working in a coffee shop at the time, called up Adam to sell him on making movies together.
Adam confirmed the story, even admitting he found the purple hair endearing. “I thought she was a badass,” he remembered.
Shortly after their meeting, he said he and his writing partner Tim Herlihy came up with the idea for “The Wedding Singer,” an eighties-set love story that made bank at the box office and re-launched Drew’s career.
“Drew liking me made it seem like girls were allowed to like me in movies,” Adam explained, saying that after “The Wedding Singer” he started getting cast as the romantic lead in a bunch of other movies, some of them also starring Drew.
6. On His Relationship With His Father
Adam spoke about his father Stanley Sandler several times on Tuesday. He said the man, who died in 2003, was extremely supportive of Adam’s comedy career and saw him perform stand-up all the time when he was still coming up in the comedy world.
Stanley lives on in the logo for Adam’s film and TV production company, Happy Madison Productions.
7. The Post-Bar Mitzvah Knife Fight
Adam told Howard that he sometimes has a short fuse, but that he hasn’t gotten into an actual fight since he was a teenager.
“Last fight I got into I was 18. I had just came from a Bar Mitzvah, with my parents. I was in a suit jacket,” Adam started. “Me and my buddy Tim [Herlihy] were walking down the street… These two fucking badasses walked by and they called us gay or something like that… some slang term.”
“The next thing you know, this guy is in my face,” he said. “He punches me in the face on 9th street, he punches me square in the face and grabs my chain on my neck.”
“I start fighting this guy. … I’m doing this shit. I used to box a little bit and it’s going okay, but then the guy takes out a carpet cutter. Somehow I knocked it and it falls out of his hand,” he continued. “It falls out of his hands and lands between Tim’s legs. It’s like a ‘Westside Story’ weird moment where everyone is just sitting there and the guy nonchalantly walks over to it, slowly picks it up, and slashes my buddy Herlihy. And then they ran away.”
“Tim looks at me and goes, ‘I think he cut me.’ I said ‘yeah,’ but his face was awful,” he added.
There was tons of blood, according to Adam, and Tim had a pretty bad scar for years, though it has mostly healed now.
Howard wondered whether there was a moral to the tragic story.
“Just let ’em go,” Adam said.
8. Why Adam Feels Awful for Passing on “Inglourious Basterds”
Howard had heard a rumor that Quentin Tarantino, who is appearing on Wednesday’s show, originally wanted Adam to star as the Bear Jew in his revisionist Nazi film “Inglourious Basterds.”
“I wanted to do it, but Judd was shooting ‘Funny People’ at the same time,” Adam confirmed.
Adam said he felt bad about passing on the film because “for years” Quentin had told him the part was being written just for him. Adam said he was “excited to shoot” with the acclaimed director and also to play a “badass Jew,” but he couldn’t get away since he was busy working with Apatow and “Basterds” was being shot in Germany.
9. The Time He Entered a Howard Contest… And Lost
When Adam was still up and coming, he and his writing partner Tim decided the best way to find fame and fortune was to get noticed by Howard. So, the two of them recorded a parody song and entered it into a contest Howard held back in the ’80s. Alas, they didn’t win. Their bit didn’t even make it to air.
“I made a cassette, an entire cassette of tunes for you,” Adam said. “We sent it in and said, ‘This is how it’s going to happen.’ … “And you played a bunch of other songs and it never happened.”
“I should’ve made the cut,” he later joked. “You would’ve produced ‘Billy Madison’ if that would’ve happened.”
“I don’t identify talent,” Howard responded. “I identify Tan Mom.”
10. On Using His Friends in Movies
Adam is well known for using his friends in all of his movies, despite the fact Lorne has cautioned him against it: “Don’t feel like you have to take care of everybody,” Sandler said Lorne had told him.”
But Adam is happy to put his friends in his movies, and not just because he’s doing them a favor, but because he loves working with them so much and thinks they make his films better.
When his movies are bashed by critics, however, it makes him feel bad. Not because he takes the criticism personally, but because he doesn’t want his friends who co-starred in the films to be panned.
11. On His Netflix Deal and “Ridiculous Six”
The whole reason for Adam’s visit to the show, of course, was to promote his new Netflix film “Ridiculous Six.”
The film is part of a four-picture deal he has with the digital distribution giant, which has recently expanded its business to include film and TV production. He said Netflix’s chief content acquisition officer Ted Sarandos courted him for awhile because Adam’s films have always been so popular on Netflix.
Adam said his brother, who is also his lawyer, and agent had to talk him into signing the deal with Netflix at first, but that it was ultimately a good decision for several reasons, including all the freedom it gives him to make the kinds of movies he wants, and also the private jet that the company owns, which is taking Adam back to the West Coast after Tuesday’s interview with Howard.
As for “Ridiculous Six,” the comedic Western that Netflix just released, Adam said it’s already doing very well. He said he was extremely proud of the film, which he said was a great experience to make, though he did caution Howard against comparing it to Mel Brooks’ iconic slapstick Western, “Blazing Saddles.”
“‘Blazing Saddles’ no one can touch,” Adam said.
Watch a trailer for “Ridiculous Six” below: