Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Things You Probably Never Knew About Adam Sandler

It's been over 30 years since Adam Sandler first graced our late-night television screens on "Saturday Night Live." From the silly Opera Man to the iconic "Chanukah Song," Sandler's sketches left an indelible mark on popular comedy. When he departed "SNL," Sandler was not yet 30, yet his debut stand-up album "They're All Gonna Laugh at You" was already double platinum (via The AV Club). He went on to star in blockbuster successes like "50 First Dates" and "The Wedding Singer," and some cringe-worthy duds like "Jack and Jill." Memorable Sandler quotes from "Billy Madison" and "Happy Gilmore" may remain a part of pop culture until the end of time.

The actor and comedian didn't grow up in the limelight, and still maintains an authentic, down-to-earth persona. Although best known for his comedic roles, Sandler has also earned praise for meaty, dramatic parts like Barry Egan in "Punch Drunk Love." In 2002, Sandler told UPI, "This experiment ['Punch Drunk Love'] was incredible, and I want to continue challenging myself." Like many celebrities who enjoy a lengthy and varied career, Sandler's life is full of interesting tidbits you may not already know.

Sandler performed stand-up as a teenager

After his high school graduation, Adam Sandler attended New York University's famed Tisch School of the Arts. Even before he began college, Sandler tried his hand at comedy. Per Empire Online, he made his stand-up debut at a Boston open mic night when he was just 17. The comedian graduated from Tisch in 1989 with a degree in acting, and he jumped into the New York comedy circuit. On "The Howard Stern Show," Sandler revealed that his stand-up was what first caused Dennis Miller to notice him and recommend him to Lorne Michaels.

Sandler was hired to write for "Saturday Night Live" in 1990 at a still-youthful 23. Rolling Stone recalled the young Sandler's comedy: "I'm no good with good-looking girls. They scare me," he said in one routine. "The ugly girls, they're much easier to talk to." It's a joke which may feel mean-spirited to some, but which centered on a self-effacing humor that endeared him to many. Sandler discovered the act worked for him, and it hasn't evolved much in the ensuing years, because it remains true to Sandler's brand and widely-known persona. Although some critics are skeptical of Adam Sandler's childish humor, others find it the work of genius and, per Forbes, his films have grossed more than $4 billion at the box office.

His first TV role was on The Cosby Show

"Saturday Night Live" wasn't Adam Sandler's first television performance — he first appeared onscreen in a recurring role on "The Cosby Show." Sandler landed the role of Theo Huxtable's obnoxious friend Smitty on the hit series in 1984 when he was just 18 years old. On "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (per Vulture), Sandler recalled his four-episode arc, and how it gave Chris Rock the chance to try his stand-up routine on the live audience. Rock and Sandler had already formed a friendship, and the former was hanging out on set to watch his buddy's performance. When the warm-up comedian got sick, Rock was given the chance to step in. However, was asked to leave after discussing Bill Cosby's "Fat Albert" cartoon characters. "And what's with this Bill Cosby?" Rock cracked. "Mushmouth — the most racist character."

It would be decades before Bill Cosby made the news for all the wrong reasons, and at the time, he was considered "America's Dad." Cosby's eponymous sitcom was the number one show on television from 1984 to 1989 (per BBC), and spawned the Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet) college-set spin-off "A Different World," which ran on NBC from 1987 to 1993. Sandler has remained mostly tight-lipped on the scandals surrounding the man whose show launched his career — when asked in 2015 whether "The Cosby Show" should be pulled from reruns, Sandler responded, "I don't have a good answer for that, but I understand both sides of it" (per Global Grind).

Sandler's dad was his hero

In an interview with "60 Minutes," Adam Sandler recalled a great childhood — there's no tortuous upbringing behind his genial façade. The youngest of four children, Sandler was especially tight with his father, Stanley, who coached his Little League teams when he was a kid. Stanley Sandler died of lung cancer on September 9, 2003; September 9 is also Adam Sandler's birthday (via CinemaBlend). Sandler remembered his father keeping him humble, but supporting him as well. "My mother said how great I was all the time," he chuckled. "I started to believe her. But my father would be like, 'You're great, but you ain't that great.'" Sandler's father, who he also called his hero, was able to see his son's rise to success, and in the midst of terminal health issues, the elder Sandler was able to attend his son's wedding to Jackie Titone on June 22, 2003 (per People).

Sandler spoke about his father's death with The Independent, bringing about a rare moment of reflection from the funnyman. "Some things get bombed on you in life, but I still enjoy it," he said. "I'm happy to be here and I don't want to fast-forward anything." On Father's Day 2022, Sandler paid homage to his hero on Twitter, writing, "Happy Father's Day to all you dads! I had a great one. Every time I heard his footsteps comin' down the hall I knew all the fun in the world was home."

He made a million dollar donation

Adam Sandler loves to give back to the local community. He hasn't forgotten his hometown, continuing to support the Boys and Girls Club of Manchester, New Hampshire. The local chapter of the national organization states the mission statement on their website as "to reach out to all youth, especially those who need us most, inspiring them to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring individuals." The amount of money Sandler gifted to the nonprofit organization, which provides after-school activities for students who may not have any other organized outlets, is staggering.

In 2007, Sandler donated $1 million to the club — an amount that would provide a sizable portion of the national Boys and Girls Club fundraising goals of $6.6 million (per UPI). At the time, the club's Executive Director, Gary Frost, told reporters, "This is an aggressive campaign; it's a challenging campaign, and there are probably some who question whether we can pull it off. But all the more credit to Adam. He sees this as a way to give back to the community where he grew up."

Sandler sometimes drops in on pick-up basketball games

Adam Sandler is vocal about his love of basketball — the sport is a deeply held passion for the actor. "Basketball started for me [when] I was a young man," he told Netflix's official companion site, Tudum. "I played with my dad, my brother and my uncle, who was 6-[feet]-6 ... I got addicted to it then." Sandler loves to play the game whenever he can, and will often drop in on pick-up games, sometimes unannounced.

Mel Magazine even calls the actor a "pickup basketball game legend." The magazine interviewed Chris Collins, a Santa Monica, California resident who found himself suddenly in a game with Sandler. Collins recalled the moment when a guy who was "dressed like such a bum" asked him to join a pickup game; it took him a moment to recognize the man inviting him to play was Adam Sandler. He wound up playing three games with the actor and others. "Uncut Gems" producer Sebastian Bear-McClard told the magazine that the sport is Sandler's "deepest catharsis ... somewhere in between his anger management and his meditation and his exercise." Esquire even captured video of Sandler playing pickup basketball on a court in Long Island.

He's given two commencement speeches

Adam Sandler never seems to forget his roots, and has returned to both his high school and college to inspire and encourage graduates. In 2010, Sandler graced Manchester High School Central graduates with his commencement speech, lacing his words with humor and recollections from his time at the school. According to Boston.com, the actor told students, "[High school] is Disney World," and the real world is "mean and scary." He even took to Twitter to congratulate 2020 high school graduates during a season of uncertainty, telling those in quarantine that he stayed home with his parents after his own graduation.

In 2022, Sandler also extended his wisdom to the newly graduated students of Tisch School of the Arts (per People). The actor's commencement speech took place 34 years after his own college graduation, as he shared with the students the general reason why creatives choose to professionally pursue the arts. "We just want to give our fellow humans an escape from this increasingly psychotic world we live in," he told students. Sandler's words may have simplified the journey of an artist, but they were steeped in veracity, too.

Adam Sandler roomed with Judd Apatow in the '80s

We can only imagine the hilarity that ensued when Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow were roommates back in the 1980s. At the time, both Sandler and the director of "Superbad" were fledgling comedians working in Los Angeles and living in the Valley. The two sat down with Anderson Cooper to reflect on those youthful years of struggle (per CBS News). Sandler told Cooper that by struggling comedian standards, he felt like he and Apatow did okay. "It wasn't broke. We were doing as comedians good enough to get by," he said. "We could eat at Red Lobster once every month. That was a big night out."

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Apatow went on to describe Sandler's weirdest roommate behavior. Apparently, the comedian slept on a bare mattress and refused to buy a car. The duo quarreled over who was better-looking, with Sandler almost always coming out on top. When Sandler left to work on "Saturday Night Live," he still paid rent for his room with Apatow, just in case the show didn't pan out for him. Both Apatow and Sandler would go on to "make it" in Hollywood, and they remain friends.

After decades away, Sandler finally hosted SNL

After Adam Sandler was fired from "Saturday Night Live," he went on to star in hit movies like "Big Daddy" and "The Waterboy." However, Sandler didn't return to the late night comedy show to host or plug any of his projects during those days of conquering the '90s box office. There wasn't bad blood between the comedian and the show — Jimmy Fallon portrayed Adam Sandler in many skits throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Sandler made a couple of cameos on the show during that same period. Finally, 24 years after Sandler was fired from "Saturday Night Live," he returned to host on May 3, 2019.

Sandler told The Hollywood Reporter about his decision to host. "It was a mistake, they caught me in a weak moment," he joked. "No, those guys are great." In his opening monologue, the comedian brought his friend and former "Saturday Night Live" player Chris Rock to the stage, and the two poked fun at their abrupt exits from the show. Sandler closed the show with a musical homage to his friend and former castmate, the late Chris Farley. "I should have come back to the show before it was HD," Sandler further joked to The Hollywood Reporter. "Good lord I waited a long time, I don't really look like Adam Sandler anymore."

Sandler once snagged a role with help from Tom Cruise

Adam Sandler finally received critical praise with his turn as Barry Egan in "Punch Drunk Love." At the time of the movie's 2003 release, Rolling Stone said, "Sandler will shock a lot of people with the ferocity and feeling of his performance," and the Paul Thomas Anderson-helmed film stands as Sandler's first real dramatic onscreen turn. The dark romantic comedy centered on Egan, a toilet supply store owner emotionally abused by his seven obnoxious sisters, and gave Sandler a chance to act outside of the silly roles to which audiences had grown accustomed. As it turns out, the comedian may never have had the chance to shine in the film without the help of Tom Cruise.

Per IndieWire, Sandler met Cruise through Nicole Kidman. The two exchanged numbers, and a friendship was formed. After Cruise starred in Paul Thomas Anderson's epic "Magnolia," the superstar connected the director with Sandler. The comedian spoke about Cruise and "Punch Drunk Love" with Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes on their "Smartless" podcast. Sandler told the celebrity "Smartless" hosts, "Tom called me up, and he says, 'I'm doing a movie with my friend Paul, and he's a great director and he's interested in doing a movie with you. Can I put him on the phone?' Paul was very nice ... He was sweet. I could tell he was funny.'" Unfortunately, the film flopped at the box office, although it was positively reviewed by many critics.

20 years passed between Sandler's stand-up specials

In 2018, Adam Sandler released the Netflix original "100% Fresh," his first official stand-up comedy special in over 20 years (per People). Sandler's unabashed ability to remain true to himself and his own brand of humor here (without injecting the immaturity of his early comedic takes) caused USA Today to call the special "his best work in years." The comedian never turns to hot button political issues or particularly acerbic humor, and his down-to-earth approach resonates. "100% Fresh," which leans heavily on Sandler's comedic songs, focuses on family and relationships. As a New York Times review stated, "Sandler has had a knack for finding the pitch-perfect emotionalism to make a memorable comic moment. Music, the most nakedly emotional of art forms, helps."

Before "100% Fresh," Sandler's last stand-up special came in 1996 with "What the Hell Happened to Me?" The 26-year-old special was taped in front of an audience at The Rosemont Theater just outside of Chicago, and received mixed reviews. "100% Fresh" follows Sandler through the comedy club circuit, and includes a memorable scene on a subway platform. Though it doesn't quite literally live up to its title, Rotten Tomatoes lists the ratings for "100% Fresh" as 90% from critics and 91% from audiences. Perhaps the time between specials allowed Sandler to completely perfect his act.

Sandler has formed close friendships with co-stars

Adam Sandler makes no secret of his friendships with frequent onscreen castmates like Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin James, and Rob Schneider. In fact, per The Hollywood Reporter, he gifted each of these friends and "Grown-Ups" actors with their own Maseratis (at the time, the flashy high-end cars retailed for $200,000). But did you know that Sandler forms bonds with many of his other co-stars too? 

After starring together in "The Wedding Singer" and "50 First Dates," Sandler and Drew Barrymore forged a deep friendship. According to the Today Show, in 2020 Barrymore presented the comedian with a Best Actor award from the National Board of Review Annual Awards, and gushed about Sandler. "I love this man so much, and I have always believed in him," she said. "This moment, honestly, couldn't be more deserved ... You deserve the best, you give the best and you are the best. I love you very much."

Sandler also remains close with Jennifer Aniston, his co-star in the romantic comedy "Just Go With It." According to E! News, Aniston first met Sandler when they were both struggling performers living in Los Angeles, and the two have remained friends ever since. "I knew I was going to be friends with her," Sandler told the entertainment site. "I didn't know I was going to be making movies with her."

Sandler once got a shiner from his cell phone

In 2022, Adam Sandler appeared on "Good Morning America" to promote his film "Hustle" ... with a black eye. He didn't avoid the obvious questions surrounding the injury. Nonetheless, Sandler could've created a story around the injury to wow fans — if he'd said he rescued a puppy from drowning or taken on a group of muggers, he might have given himself solid street cred. Instead, Sandler good-naturedly shared the truth: the black eye came from his cell phone.

Sandler said that he was lying in bed when he moved his sheets, and the phone went flying. The actor's cell phone struck him in the face and left him bloodied. He laughed and told "Good Morning America" host George Stephanopoulos, "There is nothing cool about this thing. It looks so cool. And I'm on the streets of New York, I see people going, 'Oh, okay. He likes to fight, that guy.' I'm like, 'It was a bed accident.'" A Vanity Fair article recounting the black eye story points out that Sandler previously showed up with a black eye on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" in 2014 and again on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" in 2015.

Uncut Gems brought his first universal praise

After over three decades onscreen, Adam Sandler finally received recognition and praise from almost all critics for his portrayal of Howard Ratner in the 2019 crime drama "Uncut Gems." Directed by the Safdie Brothers, the independent film only netted $50 million at the box office, yet still proved a roaring success for Sandler (per People). "Uncut Gems" centers on Ratner, a sleazy jeweler and gambler in the Diamond District of New York City who displays enormous propensity for self-sabotage. After the movie's release, Academy Award buzz dominated the conversation, and the buzz grew especially loud for Sandler's performance (via Variety).

Unfortunately, "Uncut Gems" didn't receive any nominations from the Academy, but did receive a plethora of awards from other film associations. The Guardian called Sandler's performance "a career best," while The Independent refers to the actor as "the unappreciated master of ruffled masculinity." With the exception of "Punch Drunk Love," Sandler is most well-known for his goofy comedy; "Uncut Gems" proved the comedian's credibility as a serious actor.