Earlier this week, Adam Sandler popped up at the Gotham Awards to accept a Career Tribute award. The Gotham Film and Media Institute, celebrating the best in independent film since 1991, is probably not the kind of institution you’d expect to give an honorary prize to the guy best known for broad comedy blockbusters like The Wedding Singer and Big Daddy (to say nothing of, uh, more questionable efforts like Jack and Jill). Sure Sandler’s occasionally upended the assumptions about him with unexpected and wonderful turns in “more serious” flicks like Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love and the Safdie Brothers’ Uncut Gems; but even these haven’t really garnered him the respect he deserves in Hollywood’s elite critical circles.
Nobody seems more aware of this than Sandler, who appears to relish the tension of being a bona fide movie star with more range and talent than anyone expects from a multiple-Razzie Award winner. As he accepted his Career Tribute award — with a self-deprecating speech he claimed his two teenage daughters wrote for him — he cracked that “most of the awards on his trophy shelf are shaped like popcorn buckets, blimps, or fake mini-Oscars that say ‘Father of the Year,’ which he sadly purchased himself while wandering in a self-pitying fog through the headshops of Times Square.”
In the wake of Uncut Gems, Sandler’s critical stock has certainly risen, and industry reports suggest there’s a push to help him finally score an Oscar nomination for his endearing performance in the basketball dramedy, Hustle. Whether or not it’ll work remains to be seen. But one reason everyone should root for Sandler to not only get an Oscar nomination but actually win would be to see if, at the absolute pinnacle of his career, he still commits to the goofy speech bit.
There’s evidence — even beyond his Gothams speech — to suggest that should such a glorious day arrive, the Sandman will be the Sandman. Back in 2020, Sandler scored probably his biggest acting award when he won Best Male Lead at the Independent Spirit Awards for Uncut Gems. Sure enough, he broke out the classic Sandman voice and joked, “I’d also like to give a shout-out to my fellow nominees, who will now and forever be known as the guys who lost to fucking Adam Sandler.”
This is the tone Sandler’s struck when accepting pretty much every award he’s ever won, and it’s always been a delight, even if a goofy speech matches the tone of a People’s Choice or MTV Movie Awards more than the Oscars. The “my daughter’s wrote this speech” bit from the Gothams was even slightly recycled from the 2000 MTV Movie Awards, when Sandler claimed his six-year-old Big Daddy co-stars, Cole and Dylan Sprouse, wrote his speech.
“Adam Sandler deserves this prize you gave him because he makes people who can’t read feel like they are Albert Einstein,” Sandler quipped at one point, adding later, “Adam Sandler is only nice to us if Entertainment Tonight is watching.” (There are, admittedly, a lot of other jokes in the speech that probably weren’t very good then and haven’t aged well in the 22 years since.)
Other highlights from the annals of Sandler awards show moments include a 2012 People’s Choice Award speech where he thanked the many teachers that inspired him and helped him achieve his “dream of making movies that critics all over the planet despise with unreasonable fury, but that you, the people, seem to enjoy.” He then proceeded to recall his past tutors by nicknames like “Mr. Big Bald Spot on the Side of Your Head in First Grade,” “Mrs. Really Old Lady With the Bad Wig Who Died Halfway Through Second Grade,” and his shop teacher “Mr. No Fingers — two big thumbs up to you, buddy.”
The following year at the People’s Choice Awards, Sandler insisted he wouldn’t do a joke-y acceptance speech, then proceeded to share a list of his favorite things. “Favorite audience? This one,” he quipped, then added, “Favorite way to get applause? Telling an audience I like them.”
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Sandler’s even taken the bit outside the awards show sphere, like when he introduced Jennifer Aniston at her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony in 2012, and even when he gave the commencement speech at his alma mater New York University earlier this year. Arguably the ultimate Sandler speech, though (at least until he wins his Oscar, fingers crossed) came in 2008, when he accepted the MTV Movie Awards Generation Award with a self-aggrandizing parody of Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better.”
After finishing the performance, Sandler cracked, “Thank you all, that was fun. Most arrogant thing I’ve ever done.”