Adam Sandler is back. No, really.
The “Saturday Night Live” alum never went away, mind you. He’s been a presence in our lives since those “SNL” days, cranking out films while avoiding traditional press interviews.
You remember “Jack and Jill,” “Just Go With It” and “Pixels?”
Or, to be more accurate, bad, bad and wow, that’s really awful.
In between he delivered fine movies (“Punch Drunk Love,” “Funny People,” “The Wedding Singer”) and overrated ones that snagged the zeitgeist all the same.
Sorry, “Billy Madison” fans. It wasn’t funny then or now.
We’ve still come to expect little from Sandler’s comedic ventures. “100 percent Fresh,” out now on Netflix, reverses that trend. The special takes Sandler routines from a variety of venues – microscopic and large – for a melange of songs and shtick.
You’ll laugh. A lot. He’s unabashedly crude but sweet, a combination his old roommate Judd Apatow honed to perfection in movies like “Knocked Up.”
You half fear Sandler would fall back on his greatest hits despite that “100 Percent Fresh” title. Would he recycle old routines with a lazy coat of polish? His act hasn’t changed dramatically. He still does the creaky kiddie voice. The odd comic tics haven’t disappeared, either.
When they’re deployed with substance and style it’s like they’re suddenly brand new. He even raps, convincingly so, in a few of those ditties.
“UFC Ears” is emblematic of “100 Percent Fresh” – it’s silly, clever and endlessly amusing. The special might be sliced and diced from different venues, but it expertly uses callback jokes to unify the affair.
The special’s one sour note? A lame swipe at movie critics who have savaged his films. He earned those raspberries. Now, he’s generating raves, and for good reason.
Here are seven ways “100 Percent Fresh” isn’t just a knee-slapper. It’s a minor miracle from a comic known for punching the comedy clock in recent years.
‘Fresh’ … Is 100 percent Free of Politics: The most subversive thing a comedian can do in 2018? Drop the politics. Cold. You won’t hear Trump, Pelosi, Kavanaugh or any other politically charged name in the set. It’s stubbornly apolitical, like what most of comedy used to be. He’s not hitting culture from the right, either. It either doesn’t interest him, or he understands his appeal doesn’t require the umpteenth Trump joke.
Which leads to a key reason “100 percent Fresh” soars. One of the biggest plagues of our Woke Comedy Age? The complete lack of surprise. Does anyone get caught off guard by Stephen Colbert targeting Trump … again? You may not predict the exact verbiage, but the angle and punchline are never a shock.
Sandler’s special is all about surprise. Nearly every comic set-up ends that way. The fact we don’t see the punch line coming is half the fun. Maybe two-thirds, to be more accurate.
‘Fresh’ … Shows a Star as One of Us: There’s a nasty side effect of fame and fortune, one stars rarely see coming. They get disconnected from both their fans and their backgrounds. Howard Stern clung to his “regular guy” persona longer than most. Then, he started hob nobbing with the elites. You could hear the impact of those ties in his banter.
He started pulling his punches.
Can you imagine Eddie Murphy, whose early routines flowed from his days as a poor black man, evoking that material today given his fame?
Sandler, like Jerry Seinfeld before him, calls out to his own family life. It all sounds normal, shocking so.
‘Fresh’ … Extols the Virtues of Marriage: “I don’t know what I did wrong, cuz I literally just woke up,” Sandler sings during “Eggshells.” The song taps into the male/female dynamic in ways every married man will understand. It might be the best material of the scattershot set, but it’s never cruel.
Even a bit about an unconventional sex act with his wife ends with a satisfying twist. He’s a happily married man who can find funny things to say about that union. That’s hardly catnip for today’s comic crowd. He crushes it anyway.
‘Fresh’ … Shows Why Friends Matter: “Station 69″ is as gross as you expect, and one of the special’s weaker segments. A cameo by Sandler chum Rob Schneider brings that “Carol Burnett Show” vibe, saving the day. The comics can’t stop laughing with each other. For Sandler, friendships matter. It’s why his movies feature so many familiar faces. Spade. Rock. Schneider. James. He’s one of Hollywood’s most loyal stars, a reminder of the industry’s softer side.
FAST FACT: Adam Sandler’s first comedy album, 1993’s “They’re All Gonna Laugh at You,” earned a Grammy nomination.
‘Fresh’ … Offers a Spiritual Sequel to ‘Hanukkah Song’: “I’m a man so I don’t care, got my first mustache hair,” Sandler croons in “Bar Mitzvah Boy,” a loving ode to his faith. “It’s the best day of my li-if, until three years later when my parents stop making me go to Temple.”
Once again Sandler shares his affection for Judaism, something that sets him apart from his peers. Many comics tap into their Jewish faith for laughs. Sandler makes it a source of pride. And he’s not stopping (even if “8 Crazy Nights” was a debacle).
‘Fresh’ … May Make You Cry: “100 Percent Special” wraps on a pair of serious notes. Don’t worry. Sandler isn’t getting sanctimonious, Jimmy Kimmel style. His Chris Farley tribute is sweet, soulful and darn near perfect. This wasn’t a dashed off tribute to an old friend. Sandler recalls specific memories of the late comic, revealing another side to Farley … and Sandler himself. He follows that up with a sweet and funny shout out to his wife, with whom he can’t wait to grow old together.
He’s not crying. You’re crying. And it’s impossible to dismiss Adam Sandler after seeing “100 Percent Fresh.”