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Funny People - Adam Sandler interview

Adam Sandler in Funny People

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ADAM Sandler talks about finally getting to work with his former roommate Judd Apatow on Funny People, returning to stand-up comedy, and why the set of the movie was a fun place to be even when being asked to do awkward things…

Q. It’s taken a while to get to work together, so what did you enjoy most about finally having the experience?
Adam Sandler: This is nice. You know in the back of your head when you’re shooting a movie that you’re going to have to sit and talk about it one day. It’s good to be next to Apatow and let him do the talking.

Q. Did you enjoy the opportunity to marry both aspects of your career – the serious work and the comedic element?
Adam Sandler: Yes, very much. I have done serious movies and I do tend to get my mind racing in the trailer and wondering how I’m going to do certain scenes. This was a very heavy movie at times but I felt completely taken care of by old Apatow and there was a lot less pain going on in my head.

Q. Does a storyline like this make you put your own career in perspective?
Adam Sandler: No, no… it should, but it doesn’t.

Q. How much of you is actually in there?
Adam Sandler: My new thought about the movie is that Judd and I were room-mates when I was 22 and he was 21 and he knows me best as that guy and doesn’t 100% realise that I’ve progressed another 20 years with my life. He still thinks I’m the horny young man I used to be.

Q. So he’s wrong?
Adam Sandler: I’m not quite as horny. It depends what my wife’s wearing.

Q. In the film, George’s reasons for being a comic are trying to get his father’s approval. Does the same apply to a lot of comics, including yourself?
Adam Sandler: I’m sure everyone’s got their back story. I don’t come from a place of where I was tortured and needed to let something out. I came from a very happy home. I was a little out of control at times. But my family… we all liked to be funny, we all liked to make each other laugh. I liked it the most when my father laughed at my stuff. But that wasn’t like I wanted his approval, I was just happy that he was happy. Going into this business, my mother was very encouraging, but my father was more like: “I think you’re going to have to be a funny salesman.” But my career wasn’t about getting his approval. I was just happy to make some cash and let my father rest.

Q. What was it like going out and doing stand-up again as part of your preparation?
Adam Sandler: That was great.

Q. Did it feel like putting on a comfortable pair of gloves? Did you slip back into it?
Adam Sandler: No, it was not [laughs]. I’m much more confident in who I am. I’ll accept the cheering from the top. Back then, I was running away from it. And if you don’t like me now I’m like: “Yes, thank you… I agree..”

Q. Were the stand-up scenes more difficult on film, having to get it right?
Adam Sandler: A little bit. You do put pressure on. It’s always easier to do stand-up when you don’t really care that much. All of a sudden when the cameras are rolling and you have to phrase it right and you have to get it right, sometimes it puts pressure on – sometimes it makes you better and sometimes it makes you stumble more. But you’re doing a movie, so if you stumble you can go back and say it again.

Funny People

Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring stand-up comics?
Adam Sandler: Figure out who you are. It does take a while as a stand-up to figure out who you are and how you want to represent yourself, and why you thought you should get into the business. It did take me five or six years of doing stand-up to actually develop the confidence to just talk up there. Judd always talked about how I was the loud guy, and then the quiet guy… I had no idea what I was doing. You’ve just got to give yourself time – that’s good advice I think. Give yourself time to figure out what you’re good at and what you’re not good at.

Q. Do you have a theory as to why a lot of comedians seem to be tragic figures?
Adam Sandler: That’s a common theme in a lot of comedians but I know a lot of comedians who are as solid as rocks. They’re very comfortable being around people and very comfortable with what they’ve accomplished. Garry Shandling is a pretty amazing guy. He’s done a lot with his comedy career and he’s also very at ease taking a break, sitting back and just trying to live his life… and then coming back. But there are also mental cases out there I’ve hung out with. They’re fun to be around too… they make you feel better about your life [laughs]. But there’s diffferent styles of comedians: there are neurotics, there are angry guys, there are self-hating, there’s overly confident guys out there. I’m guessing it stems from some pain.

Q. Were there any British comedians that influenced your career?
Adam Sandler: Benny Hill was a big deal in my house. It was on at 11pm and that was one of the shows my father would let us stay up and watch. He’d laugh, he’d get excited about the hot women on the show and I was excited when he was hitting the old guy on the head. Slaphead was great. I also liked Derek and Clive when I was a kid… Dudley Moore and Peter Cooke. I didn’t know Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton until I went to NYU. I would hear from my father that they were good but then when their movies were on I’d kind of tune out. I wasn’t connecting with them. But then I realised they were great.

Q. Was there a lot of joking around on set?
Adam Sandler: It was a different feel this set… There was nervous laughter when Apatow said: “Please eat out my wife.” Everyone laughed and laughed. We had a loose set, a fun set, but it was very concentrated. Apatow was on a mission to make a very important movie to his life and we were on a mission to make sure he got that accomplished. There was improv but it wasn’t like we were goofy and always saying: “Let’s try this and that…” Judd was very focused with where he wanted the scenes to go and how he wanted to get there. He gave us a lot of different options and a lot of different lines and, of course, we all came up with our own lines on occasions. If it fit, we were happy, and if it didn’t he’d guide us in a different direction. So, it wasn’t a free for all. It was a little more focused than usual.

Q. Will you be working together again?
Adam Sandler: Sure. Me and Apatow and Leslie [Mann, his wife] will be doing movies over and over again.

Q. If you had to enjoy an Adam Sandler movie marathon, which three would you pick from your own back catalogue?
Adam Sandler: Oh man, I don’t know. Big Daddy because Leslie Mann is in it, and it’s the first one my wife is in. Probably the one’s where I was the skinniest.

Read our review of Funny People

Read our interview with Leslie Mann and Jonah Hill