Albert Brooks returned again and again to his dislike of Adam Sandler's movies and what they represent during a "Words Into Pictures" panel discussion last Sunday at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. So says Mr. Showbiz columnist Jeffery Wells, who recounts the event in "Showbiz Confidential." It was a panel of comedy screenwriters, and the ostensible subject of the panel was "Laughter: The Silent Killer." Other Sandler bad-mouthers on the panel included two "SNL" alumni, Janeane Garofalo and Harry Shearer, as well as screenwriter Ed Solomon.
Even though Sandler was not there to defend himself, don't feel too bad for him. First of all, he's making $20 million a movie (so you can never feel TOO bad for him). Secondly, two other people on the panel, Norm Macdonald and writer-director James L. Brooks, were sticking up for him. Macdonald is a friend of Sandler's and a former "SNL" star himself.
In a nutshell, Albert Brooks sees his own comic films as having a certain depth and resonance, and being concerned with more than merely getting laughs. Sandler, he implied, thinks of little else.
The dissection of Sandler, which wasn't on the agenda, all began with Brooks being asked who makes him laugh, and Brooks answering, "Jack Benny." Brooks recounted the old Benny bit about the thief sticking a gun in his ribs and saying,"Your money or your life" and Benny finally saying after a long hesitation, "I'm thinking it over." After Brooks recounted the joke, Norm Macdonald sarcastically jumped in, "Those kind of inside anecdotes are really cool to hear, you know?" Brooks shot back with, "I'll match it against any Adam Sandler story you have." Then he compared Sandler to a disease. "Let's do what else America likes. How about cancer? They all seem to get that. Must be good! People keep getting it!"
Macdonald was then asked by host Hal Kanter when a comedic bit has gone into the realm of bad taste, and he turned his answer into a defense of Sandler. "I never like to do any jokes about anyone who's a private citizen. Or jokes about children. Or jokes about bowel cancer. Or mental illness or any jokes about any performers, you know? I mean, we're trying to make people laugh. I can't make fun of a person, even if I don't think he's funny. If he's making millions and millions of people laugh even if I don't think he's funny, I don't see the point in saying that this person is bad."
Brooks stated that just because everyone else likes someone, you don't have to. Macdonald's stance remained: Why make fun of someone who makes millions of people laugh?
Soon there after, Kanter asked Janeane Garofalo if she felt humor has become mean-spirited, and why. She answered the question partly by pointing a finger at Sandler. "There's a thing about the humor [of Sandler's] that is mean-spirited, and just because it makes a whole lot of people laugh doesn't mean it's that great."
Norm leaped in again. "If I could say one thing, I think Adam Sandler is the least mean-spirited comedian I've ever seen in my life."
Brooks said Adam Sandler had made him laugh many times on "SNL." But, he explained, what happens with a lot of comedians is, "Sometimes the structure of the movie becomes safer than the comedian wants to be or more mainstream or whatever it is that you need to do to get $60 million to make a movie."
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