Idina Menzel Serenades Mark Twain Honoree Adam Sandler As Opera Man

In keeping with the legacy of the man of the hour, the ceremony held to award Adam Sandler the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center on March 19 was a highbrow and lowbrow affair, filled with playful roasts, heartfelt sentiments, and a 100 percent authentic appearance by Kevin James. Naturally, the show opened in the most fitting way possible: with Tony Award winner Idina Menzel, Sandler’s co-star in 2019’s Uncut Gems, serenading the crowd as Opera Man, the character Sandler first made famous on SNL. “Signore Twain, sharp observer of human race-eh, Sandman fart on David Hasselhoff’s face-eh,” Menzel sang in a perfectly imperfect Italian accent. “Good God in heaven, Kennedy Center! What have you done?” joked Conan O’Brien later in the show, broadcast on CNN on March 26.

Also featuring speeches from Chris Rock, Dana Carvey, Steve Buscemi, Rob Schneider, David Spade, Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, and Drew Barrymore, the show was chock-full of people sharing fond memories of Sandler’s wit and generosity, impressions of Sandler’s silly voices, and digs at Schneider. And when it finally came time for the honoree himself to step onstage to accept the award, Sandler quickly dropped the joke voice he typically uses during awards speeches and offered a touching and heartfelt tribute to the family, friends, and collaborators who have inspired him, given him confidence, and contributed to his career.

“Growing up, my parents literally did everything they could to give me crazy confidence at literally everything I did,” he said. “School, sports, singing, joking — they acted like I was the best at all those things, even though other kids were way better than me.” He continued, “Everyone in this room tonight has made my life fun. People always would ask me, ‘Those bad reviews you get, how does that make you feel? Make you feel like fucking shit?’ It really doesn’t. I think the reason I get to say that didn’t hurt me is because so many of you guys in this room made me feel great about what we’ve done together. All my fellow comedians, actors, writers, collaborators, crew members, people on the streets, my family, my kids, my forever girl Jackie, all make me feel like the critics didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. Thank you for all that.” Check out some other clips from the ceremony below.

Idina Menzel Serenades Adam Sandler As Opera Man