Adam Sandler receives Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

Adam Sandler accepts Mark Twain prize on 19 March
Adam Sandler accepts Mark Twain prize on 19 March Copyright Scott Suchman/Kennedy Center
Copyright Scott Suchman/Kennedy Center
By David Mouriquand
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Sandler is the seventh SNL cast member to receive the prize, joining Billy Crystal, Tina Fey, Will Farrell, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray and Julia Louise-Dreyfus.


Adam Sandler has become the latest recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

When awarded the bronze bust of Mark Twain, the actor-comedian speculated that it “one day might be the weapon used to bludgeon me in my sleep."

A veritable who’s-who of comedic and entertainment A-listers - and Sander co-stars - gathered at Washington’s Kennedy Center as Sandler was presented with the lifetime achievement award. Previous winners include inaugural honouree Richard Pryor in 1998, Whoopi Goldberg (2001), Carol Burnett (2013), Dave Chapelle (2019) and John Stewart (2022). 

Presenters including Conan O’Brien, Drew Barrymore, Chris Rock, Judd Apatow, Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Buscemi, Dana Carvey, and Luis Guzmán gave testimonials to Sandler's creative longevity, while poking occasional fun at his uneven movie output and tendency to cast all his friends in his movies.

O'Brien poked fun at Sandler's loyalty, as he often works with the same team of writers and actors.

"A lot of amazing. amazing people have flown to D.C. to say nice things about Adam Sandler. But have you asked yourself why so many of Adam's friends were available to speak tonight? I'll tell you why. Cause when Adam isn't working, they're not working," O'Brien joked.

Tracey Salazar/Kennedy Center
Conan O'Brien honours SandlerTracey Salazar/Kennedy Center

Sandler's long-time writing and production partner Tim Herlihy joked that the pair were responsible for “31 motion pictures with a combined Rotten Tomatoes score of 59.”

At the end of the night, Sandler, 56, paid tribute to his parents and siblings for arming him with “that weird irrational confidence thing that I guess I still have.”

Tracey Salazar/Kennedy Center
Conan O'Brien honours SandlerTracey Salazar/Kennedy Center

Sandler began his career as a stand-up comic before becoming a household name as a cast member of Saturday Night Live from 1991 to 1996.

After his five-year stint on SNL - Sandler was fired by NBC executives following several dips in viewership - he launched a wildly successful movie career that has spanned more than 30 films, grossing over $3 billion worldwide. He went on to make a string of hits like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer.

Although primarily known for slapstick comedy and overgrown man-child characters, he has recently excelled in multiple dramatic roles in films such as Punch Drunk Love, Uncut Gems and last year’s Hustle, in which he plays a down-on-his-luck NBA scout who discovers a raw but talented basketball player in Spain and tries to prepare him for the NBA draft. These recent roles have garnered critical acclaim – unlike many of his less-than-stellar and low-effort outings with the likes of That’s My Boy, Grown Ups, Pixels and The Ridiculous 6 – to name but a few duds.

The American comedy institution SNL has provided more than its share of the 24 Mark Twain recipients. Sandler is the seventh cast member to receive the prize, joining Billy Crystal (who was awarded the prize in 2007), Tina Fey (2010), Will Farrell (2011), Eddie Murphy (2015), Bill Murray (2016) and Julia Louise-Dreyfus (2018). Show creator and producer Lorne Michaels won in 2004.

Bill Cosby, the 2009 recipient, saw his Mark Twain Prize rescinded in 2019 amid multiple allegations of sexual assault.

The 2023 ceremony will be broadcast in the US on 26 March.

Additional sources • AP

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