Jews make up about 0.2% of the world's population yet they have always been a loud (emphasis on the loud) and prominent voice in film, television, music, and comedy.
The next eight days are Hanukkah, which is not the most important Jewish holiday, but we do get presents. For each night of Hanukkah, I will share one Jewish entertainer who has had a big impact on me. For the eighth and final night of Hanukkah, let's talk about Adam Sandler:
Out of all of the possible candidates (there were way too many), Adam Sandler seemed like the only possible choice for the final Jew of Hanukkah.
It would probably be easier to write about how far Sandler has fallen. His last movie was "Grown Ups 2" and "Jack and Jill" possibly set Jews back about 50 years. 50 years is nothing. We can recover. Instead, I want to talk about the Sandler I know, the one that I grew up with.
I recently purchased the Best of Adam Sandler which compiles some of his best sketches on "Saturday Night Live." Watching it today seems almost surreal. I wonder if those live audiences knew while watching it that they were witnessing a future comedy superstar in the making. Yes, Opera Man still holds up. It's hard to have a verdict on any sketch that also has Chris Farley in it though; he is pretty impossible to compete with.
After leaving "Saturday Night Live," Sandler launched an extremely successful movie career consisting of a string of films that were panned by critics yet loved by every teenager and Paul Thomas Anderson. I am beyond proud to say that I can recite nearly every line from "Billy Madison" by heart. Despite the fact that Sandler is loud and obnoxious, the other characters still manage to be funny and produce some of the movie's best lines ("If peeing in your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis").
I could possibly understand why some people might be annoyed by "Billy Madison," especially if it wasn't one of their first introductions into comedy. Maybe you might consider "Happy Gilmore" juvenile, too if you are a bad person who hates fun. But "The Wedding Singer" is an undeniably great romantic comedy, a movie that is even more rewarding than getting paid in meatballs. In addition, "Big Daddy" is also more moving than it has any right to be. More importantly, his performances were good enough to get him cast in "Punch Drunk Love," where all of that rage was targeted towards building something deeper. It really is a shame he hasn't been in more movies like that since.
Since this is Hanukkah we are talking about here, I have no choice but to mention Sandler's contributions to the holiday. He helmed "Eight Crazy Nights," which to date is still the only mainstream Hanukkah movie that I can think of. Years before that, he made the holiday way cooler than it had any right to be with "The Hanukkah Song" (to date, three versions of it exist). A key line in the song is "so if you still feel like the only kid in town just like you and me/here are some people who are Jewish/just like you and me." Sandler captures the sad feeling any Jewish kid might feel during the Christmas season (and I am guessing he experienced it, too, seeing as he grew up in New Hampshire). But the song is heart-warming and shows this sense of connection every Jew feels for another that is so hard to explain. To see another Jew succeed gives one a great sense of pride like they would for a close family member. And Sandler, during his best years, was our rock star. He is the real reason I felt like I needed to make a list for myself.
So while everyone else gets to decorate a Christmas tree, we get to sing "The Hanukkah Song." I can live with that.