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Sandler receives Mark Twain award, praise from comedy friends


WASHINGTON (AP) — Adam Sandler placed his hand on the bronze bust of Mark Twain, speculating that it “could one day be the weapon used to club me in my sleep.”

A host of comedy and entertainment royalty gathered at Washington’s Kennedy Center as Sandler was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Presenters including Drew Barrymore, Conan O’Brien, Chris Rock, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Buscemi, Dana Carvey and Luis Guzmán gave testimonials to Sandler’s creative longevity, occasionally poking fun at his uneven film output and tendency to put all his friends in his movies.

Sandler’s longtime writing and production partner Tim Herlihy joked that the pair were responsible for “31 movies with a combined Rotten Tomatoes score of 59.”

Best known for his dramatic and often violent roles, Buscemi played a range of comedic characters in Sandler films.

“He takes his comedy very seriously. I laugh out loud at everything I do with him,” he said.

Buscemi also mentioned Sandler’s musical comedy, including “The Chanukah Song,” which became a multiplatinum hit. “His comedy songs alone deserve this award,” he said.

Judd Apatow, Sandler’s roommate during their early days in Los Angeles, recalled the boundless confidence and obvious talent of a young Sandler.

“The moment you met him, you knew Adam was going to be a big star,” said Apatow. “And Adam too.”

To emphasize Sandler’s seemingly boundless comedic energy, Apatow played an old video he recorded of a young Sandler calling a local deli in his spare time to try out different comedic voices.

At the end of the night, Sandler paid tribute to his parents and siblings for arming him with “that weird irrational self-confidence I think I still have”

Sandler, 56, first came to national attention as a cast member of “Saturday Night Live.” After being fired from the cast after a five-year stint, Sandler launched a hugely successful film career that spanned over 30 films, grossing over $3 billion worldwide.

Sandler’s top hits include “Happy Gilmore,” “The Wedding Singer,” and “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.” While best known for his slapstick comedy and overgrown man-child characters, he has excelled in multiple dramatic roles in films like ‘Punch Drunk Love’ and ‘Uncut Gems’.

Guzman, who co-starred in “Punch Drunk Love,” admitted he initially thought Sandler was “out of his league” in a dramatic role written by author-director Paul Thomas Anderson. But he was impressed, praising Sandler’s “total dedication to something that has been out of its element for us so far”.

Other comedians who received the Lifetime Achievement Award include inaugural honoree Richard Pryor in 1998, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett, and Dave Chapelle. Bill Cosby, the 2009 recipient, had his Mark Twain award revoked in 2019 amid multiple allegations of sexual assault.

The “SNL” comedy institution has provided more than its fair share of 24 Mark Twain recipients. Sandler is the seventh cast member to receive the award, along with Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Will Farrell, Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy and Julia Louise-Dreyfus. Show creator and producer Lorne Michaels won in 2004.

The ceremony will be broadcast nationwide on CNN on March 26.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.