The first thing you need to know about Adam Sandler at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (which debuted November 10) is hammered home from the moment you pick up your tickets to the moment you take your seats.
No phones allowed.
That’s not an easy pill to swallow in the modern concertgoing era. The thought crossed my mind: Are people going to believe I was really there if I tell them? At least, by forcing all of us to keep our phones in our pockets, it eliminates that moment when you’re at a show and everyone else has their phones held high and you start thinking, “I should be recording this, too!”
It does make it harder to take notes, though, and comedy shows are notoriously difficult to remember joke-for-joke. But in a nutshell, The Cosmopolitan deserves credit (again) for its latest reach outside the box, serving as a comeback venue for a comedian whose career has been hit-or-miss (and mostly miss) for the last 15 years or so.
By the end of the night, you’ll remember why you love Sandler and how much you miss that ’91–’94 era of Saturday Night Live comics: David Spade, Chris Farley, Rob Schneider, Tim Meadows, Norm MacDonald—just a bunch of pals having the time of their lives up there.
There’s no question, this show aims straight for that core audience. If you were just the right age when Sandler and company were doing SNL, Billy Madison and Tommy Boy, you’re the target audience. Those guys are all in their 50s now, and Sandler’s act is largely about getting older and being a father and husband, jokes that aren’t going to land with every audience. But when you’re sitting in The Chelsea watching the comedian onstage and you see men and women around you constantly turning to each other, saying, “Oh, my god, that’s so you,” you know Sandler’s found himself in good company.
But I’m getting way ahead of myself. It’s worth mentioning how we got here in the first place.
Adam Sandler the Stand-up
When The Cosmopolitan dropped news of Sandler’s “multishow residency” in September, it was a shock because it’s been forever since we’ve seen him do stand-up. How many of his younger fans even know he does stand-up? Has he been down at The Comedy Store working this stuff out and we just missed it on YouTube? Is it going to be a show that’s mostly music and Q&A?
Recently, we’ve seen a lot of former SNLers find success on the Strip—Steve Martin, Martin Short, Carvey, Lovitz. Is Sandler going to become a resident?
So many questions.
You start to put the answer together in your head when you see the sign letting you know everything in The Chelsea is being recorded by Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions. Nothing’s been confirmed, but the smart money says the three Cosmopolitan shows (Sandler returns November 17 and January 27, 2018) will become a future Netflix special. That’s probably another reason they don’t want you waving your phones in the air the whole time.
The Show Begins
Comedian/writer Joseph Vecsey serves as the show’s emcee, doing exactly what he needs to do: warm the crowd with a few jokes that land but aren’t going to be as sharp as the headliner. You figure that’s it, and Sandler’s coming up next.
Not even close.
Vecsey announces some “special guests” ahead of Sandler, which set the mind reeling. Are any of the aforementioned comedians going to open this show? It’s not unfathomable, seeing as how Sandler and those guys have been palling around together for the last 25 years.
Then Vecsey welcomes Norm MacDonald to the stage—a total shock, and the best surprise of the night.
If there is any question that MacDonald is one of the GOAT comedians, immediately stop what you’re doing, go to YouTube and watch “Norm Saves the Interview.”
Given only about 10 minutes for the entire set, MacDonald didn’t have enough time to tell one of his legendary shaggy-dog stories, but given the setting, he did slip in his popular “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” bit.
“All it really means is you can go to Vegas, you can have sex with a prostitute, and she will not tell your wife. They’re very discreet, not like these gossipy, small-town whores back where you live.”
MacDonald would have been enough to get the crowd psyched for Sandler, but Vecsey returns and brings out another special guest: David Spade.
That one wasn’t as much of a surprise; I figured Spade was hanging around somewhere in The Cosmopolitan. He followed MacDonald with another brief 10–15 minute set, mostly about taking dick pics. The majority of it landed, and when it didn’t, no one cared because it was still great to see these talents onstage on the same night.
Sandler Takes the Stage
After Spade wraps, he introduces Sandler to a standing ovation. At 51, Sandler appears to have moved into that “I’m out of shape and I don’t care, let’s make fun of it” phase of comedy, and he’s sporting a mustache that one can only assume is for Mo-vember or an upcoming Netflix special in which he plays a really assertive school principal.
For those who haven’t gone back to pre-SNL Sandler, it’s worth noting he was a pretty good stand-up before joining the show. There’s no doubt his best stuff always came from sketches (They’re All Gonna Laugh at You! and What the Hell Happened to Me? are classic albums), but he could hold the room. His rep has taken a hit over the years because the movies haven’t been great, but at The Chelsea, you forget all that and just feel like you’re in the presence of an old friend.
Sandler appears to feel a similar way about his fans. Throughout the night, in between the jokes, he’s incredibly gracious, thanking people for coming and thanking The Cosmopolitan for hosting the show. He sprinkles lines from Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison in between bits about his two daughters and his longtime wife, and just hearing that goofy voice (you know the one) sends the audience into applause.
There’s music, of course. Sandler’s keyboardist maintains the flow by prompting the comedian into multiple songs, each ending in a punch line. This format really works, and you can tell Sandler’s spent time massaging the delivery and words even when he’s just working blue and talking about his “old-man balls” or how his wife wipes when she pees, or what’s wrong with Tinder.
“What happened to the old days when you just walked into a bar and said, ‘Hey, who wants to fuck Billy Madison?’”
The whole time, however, Sandler is standing in front of four guitars onstage, and you’re wondering, when is he going to pick one up?
That doesn’t come until the end, and when it does, you realize it was totally worth the wait.
The first song is a tribute to Chris Farley, who passed away 20 years ago this December. Sandler sings about their time hanging out together, all the stuff they’d get into and how great it was when Farley would bust Spade’s balls. On the verge of tears, he tells the younger fans in the crowd how much they would have loved Farley. That part will make you choke up.
Wrapping the tribute, Sandler continues, “It’s getting close, so let’s do it,” before launching into “The Chanukah Song,”—the fourth version of “The Chanukah Song,” specifically, released in 2015, with references to Punky Brewster, Seth Rogen and Scarlett Johansson. At one point, when dropping Jared from Subway’s name, Sandler launches it a mini rant about the disgraced pitchman and Harvey Weinstein, wondering aloud who would be the next celebrity exposed as a serial sex abuser. Just a slight detour.
For his closing act, Sandler brings back “Grow Old With You” from The Wedding Singer, dedicating the lyrics to his wife, who always has his back, he says, even when Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t.
Then, in a really honest and touching bit, he tweaks the song’s last line for fans and thanks them for “growing old with me.”
It’s classy when a comedian acknowledges a connection with long-time fans, a connection that exists because we laugh at the same jokes.
Thanks for that, Sandler.
Adam Sandler performs Friday, Nov. 17, at The Chelsea in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Tickets can be purchased on The Cosmopolitan website.