That Time Adam Sandler Almost Wasn’t Adam Sandler

Published January 21, 2020

Adam Sandler photographed by Todd Eberle.

Try to imagine a world without Adam Sandler—we’d have no “Hanukkah Song,” no Punch-Drunk Love, or (for better or worse) no Jack and Jill. Polarizing as he may be, Sandler holds a distinguished position in pop culture, as an SNL alum and Grammy nominee who straddles the line between box office magnate and indie darling with ease. But what if he never got into comedy in the first place? His prolific career is all thanks to Scott Sandler, Adam’s brother, who encouraged him to pursue stand-up comedy. In our December 1994 issue, Sandler explained to Ben Stiller how Scott encouraged him to go for it despite his reservations:

BEN STILLER: So how old were you when you started doing stand-up?

ADAM SANDLER: Seventeen.

STILLER: Did you know then that this was what you were going to do for a living?

SANDLER: No. My brother told me to do it, so I did it.

STILLER: He was the guy who made you feel that it was O.K. to be funny and sing a silly little song you made up?

SANDLER: Right. If he hadn’t said to do it, I wouldn’t have thought it was a normal thing to do. I would have said, “Mom and Dad are going to get mad at me.” But because he told me to do it, and I knew that my parents respected his brain, I was like, “He said to do it, so it must be O.K.”

Thanks to Scott, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and The Meyerowitz Stories are all a part of cinematic history. Twenty-six years later, however, history has repeated itself: Sandler recently revealed to Ellen Degeneres that he wasn’t originally sold on his role in Uncut Gems, the anxiety-riddled Safdie Brothers thriller that has become a cornerstone of what some are deeming the Sandlerssaince. Though he’s earned near-universal acclaim and multiple awards nominations (though notably no love from the Academy) for his role as Howard Ratner, a gambling addict and deliriously wonderful schmuck, Sandler admitted that his wife Jackie had to convince him to sign on to the movie. We shudder at the possibility of living in a world without Adam Sandler as Howard, dropping F-bombs and ogling Furby jewels. As the proverbial glue that holds the whole film together, where would Julia Fox or Wayne “Handsome Older Man” Diamond be without the scummy but lovable jeweler? Indeed, we can’t imagine what it would be like not to have the Sandler-Garnett-Weeknd crossover we all know and love, and we have Jackie Sandler to thank for it. That’s how we all win.