Last year in Noah Baumbach’s Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Adam Sandler — who earned rave reviews for his portrayal of a demure, depressed father with a powder-keg temper — sings a song at the piano with his daughter, played by Grace Van Patten. It’s sweet, sensitive, and self-deprecating (“You got my hands, you got my toes” / “But luckily I got mommy’s nose”) — those three levers that Sandler occasionally pulls to help ballast the blue potty-humor that catapulted him into superstardom and helped chisel his countenance into comedy’s Mount Rushmore.
More than anything else, their father-daughter duet sounded great. It was a welcome reminder of Sandler’s knack for melody and musicality, which were once the marrow of his comedic bones but slowly drifted to the margins as he abandoned sketch, comedy albums, and the stage for the silver screen. Sure, every few years we would get a Wedding Singer or a meta-textual stand-up “tour” (performing as his Funny People character George Simmons, which helped provide the film’s naturalistic texture), but by and large, Sandler’s musical comedy was relegated to the Ghost of Goofiness Past.
That all changes with 100% Fresh, Sandler’s brand-new hour for Netflix. It marks his return to the stage 22 years after HBO aired the Chicago leg of his live tour commemorating his second multiplatinum comedy album, What the Hell Happened to Me? Filmed over multiple nights at various venues across the country by longtime collaborator Steven Brill (with performance footage from Los Angeles’s El Rey Theater captured by Paul Thomas Anderson, their first collaboration since 2002’s Punch Drunk Love), 100% Fresh has the unpolished feel of a documentary, with B-roll and outtakes of the tour spliced in with Sandler’s actual act, which is dominated by earworm-y comedy songs with proper stand-up bits peppered throughout. Sandler flexes his musical chops with genre experimentation, performing puerile pop songs to poignant power ballads. But there is, and always has been, a method to his man-child madness. 100% Fresh maps a tonal pathway that nearly mirrors Sandler’s career trajectory as comedian. He raps and sings about silly, gross-out topics (shitting his pants in the back of an Uber, because of course) then pivots into more vulnerable territory, opening up about fatherhood, marriage, and aging in comedy.
Look, there’s no need to overintellectualize Sandler’s humor. He wouldn’t want you to, either. But there’s something blissful to be found in his idiot-savant indifference. He’s the dad who takes you to a museum for a learning experience then points and laughs at the Vitruvian Man’s dick. So sit back and watch Sandler get back in comedic tune in his harmless, low-stakes, yet surprisingly emotionally effecting way.
You ever go to somebody’s house, and uh, you ring the doorbell and the guy answers and says, “Hey you gotta take your shoes off,” and you go, “Oh God, okay,” and then he goes, “Hey, take your socks off,” and you’re like, “Take my socks off? What?” Then he goes, “Roll up your pants!” And then he puts some grapes down and he goes, “Start stomping on the grapes!” And you’re like, “What the fuck are we doing?” And he’s like, “We are MAKING THE WINE!”
That’s the whole joke. Seriously. No discernible joke construction, just a stream-of-conscious thought that seems to strike him right there in the moment. So he wanted to share it with us, like an excitable child trying to impress his parents’ friends with a frivolous observation (which clearly didn’t happen) that winds up being just a deluge of detail. It’s so dumb yet so pure that the longer you think about just how dumb and pure it is, you laugh harder and harder. The final line is delivered with the same emotional-outburst-explosiveness of Billy Madison’s “You blew it!”, striking all the adolescent nostalgia buttons in all the right ways.
You ever been wondering down the street and say hi to a baby? And the baby goes, “Yeow-yah-bah.” And you go, “Yeah, that’s great.” And then the mother goes, “He can say hi back.” And you’re like, “Oh yeah?” And then the kid goes, “Ooy-yah.” And you’re like, “There it is!” And the mother’s like, “No, he can say it.” And then the kid goes, “Oy-yoy-yah.” So you go, “Yay! That was great.” Then the mom is like, “No, he really can say it.” Then the kid goes, “Uh-yoy, wah-yoy.” And then you’re like, “There it is. That was it, right?” And the mom goes, “No! What the fuck? Say it! You said it earlier!” And then the kid’s like, “Ooyah-babah-oyah!” So you’re like, “Hey that was a full sentence! That was better than hi.” Then the mom’s like, “I’m so mad at you baby!” And then she hands you the baby and she’s like, “I gotta walk this off. This is very discouraging for me.” So you’re holding the baby and you’re like, “Say it. Go ahead and say it. C’mon, you really upset your mother. Get it out you can do it.” And the baby’s like, “Heh-heh-HELP ME! She won’t get me vaccinated.”
If your anxiety was ratcheted up through the roof while reading this, then congratulations, you’re a sane human being. This bit is like the Tower of Babel of Sandler’s signature gibberish-talk, which I’m sure you can hear in your head perfectly without me attempting to (poorly) spell it out phonetically. Our favorite enfant terrible knows how terribly infantile he is, and he certainly knows how we will willingly eat it up. So Brill’s lens zooms in tighter and tighter on Sandler’s face as he continues to communicate with this fictional child, pacing the bit out for what seems like an eternity until you fucking astral project and can’t tell the difference between Sandler the actual adult and Sandler in character as the baby. It’s a Möbius strip of poetic nonsense.
The Spooky Dick Pic
I took my first dick pic, everybody! Dick pic? That’s such a weird thing to do. And there’s no reason for me to do it. I’m fucking married. But all my friends do ’em so I’m like, “What the fuck? Let me do it so I can at least be a part of the conversation.” So I do my first dick pic and I look back at it and there’s a ghost in the background. I live in a haunted house? I wanna show everybody! What are the chances of catching that! But my dick doesn’t look as good as I want it to look, plus the ghost was really tall so it makes my dick look … plus the ghost was holding a ruler and I’m like, “What the fuck is your problem?” to the ghost and he’s like, “I live here too. I like to have fun.”
Sandler’s sweet-spot balance of crude and self-effacing takes what could’ve been a lazy lament of trying to incorporate technology into your sex life as an old man and transforms it into a childlike yet imaginative riff on just how creepy unsolicited dick pics are. A freakin’ ghost turns the tables on Sandler’s attempts at being like all of his other bro friends who fire off these lewd pics, giving him a pang of conscience once the ghost takes away his power by literally cutting him down to size. Insane bit. Insanely funny bit.
Our Friend Chris Farley
After a show he’d drink a quart of Jack Daniels and stick the bottle right up his ass,
But hungover as hell, that Catholic boy always showed up to morning Mass.
We told him “Slow down or you’ll wind up like Belushi and Candy.”
He said, “Those are my heroes, that’s all fine and dandy.”
I ain’t making that shit up, that’s the truth about my boy Chris Farley.
One of the final songs Sandler performs during 100% Fresh is a beautiful eulogy for his fallen comedy comrade Chris Farley. Visibly fighting back tears and choking up throughout, Sandler traces their friendship from their rowdy days at Saturday Night Live’s Studio 8H to the memories made outside of show business. A visual montage of their hangs and most notable sketches stream on the giant monitors behind Sandler as he strums his guitar, adding moments of levity as he recalls Farley’s unbelievable timing, kindness, breakneck physicality, and his favorite pastime of fucking with David Spade. Melancholy has always existed just below the surface of Sandler’s buffoonish behavior, but watching him articulate this sense of loss with such rawness still activates your tear ducts in an intensely jarring way. Crying during a comedy specials is not something you’d imagine doing, but then again, Adam Sandler has continued to surprise us with these moments of magic when we least expect it.