(2 of 2)
Sandler never seemed to doubt that the world would come around to seeing it his way. He got his big break on Saturday Night Live in the early 1990s as part of anew generation of comics that included Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider. They gave a creative jolt to SNL, but the baby-boomer executives at NBC were mystified by Sandler's humor. Michaels says, "The idea that somebody was trying to make people laugh and it wasn't for them or it wasn't aimed at them--that was a big revelation."
Sandler was dumped from the show in 1995. Fortunately for him, that was the same year Billy Madison was released. It was a hit with teens, and Sandler followed it in 1996 with Happy Gilmore. Suddenly the comedian who had been fired back East was being courted out West. "Adam has always been more highly regarded in Hollywood than by the critics," says an agent who knows him. "Anyone with kids usually likes him because their kids are so into him."
There's a jokey axiom in Hollywood: Show business is a homophobic, anti-Semitic industry dominated by homosexuals and Jews. In reality, Sandler is widely admired within the entertainment community for proudly proclaiming his Jewish heritage. And it's one reason that audiences of all stripes like him: Adam Sandler seems authentic; he's not hiding anything. His hilarious Chanukah Song, which he introduced on Saturday Night Live, is considered a holiday classic.
The song also inspired the title of Sandler's next film, an animated musical called 8 Crazy Nights. The movie, in which Sandler provides several voices, will be released by Sony in November. Like nearly all his movies, it will be produced through Sandler's Happy Madison Productions. Run by a tightly knit group of Sandler's buddies, the company has turned out several low-budget comedies starring his former Saturday Night Live colleagues. Happy Madison's television arm recently struck a deal to produce a sitcom for the WB network. Working with Revolution Studios, Sandler will serve as executive producer on next year's feature comedy Anger Management. Sandler was paid a reported $25 million for the movie, which co-stars Jack Nicholson. There's a very funny scene in the movie in which Sandler and Nicholson sing a duet of I Feel Pretty from West Side Story; the clip is already making the rounds in Hollywood.
Sandler, who grew up in New Hampshire and actually does keep his private life private, refuses all print interviews. But that doesn't seem to hurt him with his audience. Other big stars such as Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks all have aging fan bases. But Sandler's demographic is golden: his disciples range from 10 to 30, and he has a surprisingly large female following, which makes up about 40% of his opening-weekend audience. Not bad for a guy who loves poo jokes. "He has a cult following of millions," says Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box-office-tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. "The thing about his audience--they are growing up with him, and they're still in that most-frequent-moviegoer category." Adam Sandler appears to be growing up but not wearing thin. Nothing dumb about that.