When Adam Sandler was sacked from Saturday Night Live along with Chris Farley in 1995, he never really understood why. However, when the star returned to the show in May 2019, he turned a potentially awkward situation into an incredibly moving one. Indeed, he fought back the tears when he sang a song in tribute to his friend Farley, who died of a drug overdose in December 1997.
As a comedian, Sandler spent part of his early career on the team of Saturday Night Live. He starting work there as a writer in 1990, before becoming a regular performer on the sketch show a year later. And there, he would often play guitar and sing comical songs that he had written himself.
Consequently, Sandler became friends with a number of people while he was working at Saturday Night Live. These included comedian David Spade and actor Rob Schneider. However, there was one fellow funnyman he grew particularly close to during his SNL tenure, and that was Chris Farley.
So when Saturday Night Live invited Sandler back as a host in May 2019, it seemed fitting that the comedian paid tribute to his good friend Farley. But when he performed a song about his close pal, he found it hard to fight back the tears. In fact, SNL team member Leslie Jones put it well in a tweet from the night, writing, “Not. A. Dry. Eye. In. The. House.”
Sandler, who was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1966, hadn’t originally planned on getting into comedy when he was growing up, planning instead to join the military. However, his father Stanley didn’t feel that his son was strong enough for the role. Instead, Sandler’s life took an almost entirely contrasting path into the world of comedy.
Sandler first took to the stage when he was just 17 years old at his brother’s suggestion. After his movie debut in Going Overboard in 1989, Sandler returned to the comedy circuit and was playing shows in L.A. And in attendance at a gig one night was a fellow comedian named Dennis Miller.
For those who don’t know, Dennis Miller is an actor, comedian and talk show host. And between 1985 and 1991 the comic served as part of the cast team on Saturday Night Live. And he was impressed enough with Sandler’s standup routine to recommend him to producer Lorne Michaels.
Michaels, too, was impressed by Sandler’s ability, and initially hired him as a writer for Saturday Night Live in 1990. However, the comic then became a regular cast member on the show the following year. And throughout his tenure, Sandler had the opportunity to work with some stellar comedy talent.
Indeed, Sandler was among a group of writers hired in the spring of 1990. And there, he collaborated with a number of fellow stars, including Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider and Tim Meadows. But there was one comedian in particular that the young Sandler developed a distinctly close bond with. And that was the comic actor Chris Farley.
Farley featured among a group of writers marking a new era for Saturday Night Live in 1990 – and each one of them swiftly made an impression on the audience. And together the collective, which consisted of Sandler, Space, Rock, Farley and others, brought a fresh energy to the show and became known as the “Bad Boys of SNL.”
Meanwhile, Farley was a standout performer on Saturday Night Live and often joked about his weight. And this was a trait that went way back, as even in high school he would mock his own size before anyone else. Subsequently, he raised laughs and eventually decided to move into comedy as a career.
Indeed, Farley’s weight and his shamelessness of it continued to serve him on Saturday Night Live. In one well-known sketch he appeared shirtless next to a toned Patrick Swayze. Hilariously, the Dirty Dancing actor was a rival to the comedian in an audition to join striptease performance act the Chippendales.
In fact, Farley’s antics were well-known in the Saturday Night Live offices too. The comic got a reputation for frequently removing all his clothes for pranks to make people laugh. Chris Rock once commented on it, apparently saying he may have seen Farley’s nether regions more often than his girlfriend had.
Meanwhile, Farley’s larger than life reputation also spilled over into the real world. In a February 1998 feature in Rolling Stone, writer Erik Hedegaard recalled how he had seen the actor the previous summer. He wrote, “He was in a fine, merry mood, having just come from a Lakers game…”
Hedegaard continued, “During [the Lakers game, Farley had] made a wonderful spectacle of himself, emitting loud, stadium-size fart noises and shouting profanities.” But, the writer noted, Farley was a man it was hard not to love, despite his brash exterior. He continued, “But with Farley, you simply had to cast that stuff aside and hop on board…”
For his part, Sandler was fully on board with Farley. In fact, the pair began to work together outside of the Saturday Night Live orbit. And in 1993 they appeared in the sci-fi comedy Coneheads, co-written by and starring SNL alumnus Dan Aykroyd. Though widely panned by critics, the movie nevertheless earned $21 million at the box office.
Then, in 1994 Sandler played a leading role in the comedy movie Airheads, alongside Steve Buscemi and Brendan Fraser. His buddy Farley also had a smaller part in the movie. However, despite its generally poor reviews, the movie nevertheless went on to pick up a respectable cult fan base.
Billy Madison followed in 1995, written by and starring Sandler. In it, the title character is made to repeat grades one to 12 in order to prove he is capable of taking over his father’s business. Farley again appears alongside his good friend in a movie that contains humor perhaps of an acquired taste, but nevertheless performed well in theaters.
However, in 1995 Sandler’s time on Saturday Night Live was cut short, despite his movie career taking off. Then, at around the same time, Farley, too, was fired. It’s a situation that always baffled Sandler, as he wasn’t sure what exactly happened to perpetuate the move. And it hurt the young comic.
For more than 20 years his and Farley’s firing from Saturday Night Live was a mystery to Sandler. In a 2014 article posted by The Daily Beast, the comic said, “We were on it for a few years, had our run, and everything happens for a reason. We kind of understood because we did our thing.”
Regardless, Sandler was left worried about the trajectory of his career when he time on Saturday Night Live came to an end. As he explained, “It hurt a lot at the time because we were young and didn’t know where we were going, but it all worked out.” Indeed, after their stint on the comedy staple, both Sandler and Farley’s Hollywood careers took off.
For Sandler, the hit movies continued through the 1990s. In 1996 there was the buddy cop comedy Bulletproof and sports comedy Happy Gilmore. Then came The Wedding Singer, which debuted at number two behind only Titanic. The Waterboy also followed the same year and grossed nearly $186 million.
And as we mentioned earlier, Farley’s movie career also gained momentum after his dismissal from Saturday Night Live. In 1995 came Tommy Boy, which was produced by former SNL producer Lorne Michaels and co-starred SNL castmate David Spade. The latter then appeared with Farley in Black Sheep in 1996, which was again produced by Michaels.
Meanwhile, Sandler then launched Happy Madison Productions in 1999. In fact, its first movie was Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, which was written by and starred former Saturday Night Live colleague Rob Schneider. Indeed, movies produced by the firm often cast Sandler’s former SNL castmates David Spade and Chris Rock.
With Sandler still working with some of his former Saturday Night Live colleagues, then, it appeared as though there were no hard feelings over his dismissal. Nevertheless, the comic actor never returned to the show as a guest host, a move that is typical for cast members who achieve success beyond the program.
Indeed, in 2014 Sandler was interviewed on fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus Norm Macdonald’s video podcast. During their chat, the latter asked the star why he wouldn’t return to the show. Sandler simply responded, “Why should I?” Though the comic had made a couple of cameos over the years, he appeared to have little appetite to return as its host.
However, that changed in May 2019 when Sandler finally accepted an invitation to return to Saturday Night Live. But after 24 years’ absence and the reasons for his dismissal never being fully addressed, it was a recipe for a potentially awkward situation. Nevertheless, Sandler knew exactly how to handle it.
Sandler opened his guest-host spot with a song written in direct reference to his Saturday Night Live dismissal. And a video uploaded by the show’s official YouTube account captures the song. Sander’s monologue begins, “My wife and kids are here. I always tell them how SNL was the greatest time of my life. And my daughter asks, ‘If it was the greatest, Dad, why did you leave?’”
The comic then breaks into a song, like those that had become Sandler’s trademark during his Saturday Night Live tenure. He sang, “I was fired, I was fired. It was so sad to tell… I tried to call Lorne Michaels, but he never called me back.” The performance then even features a cameo from former colleague and comedian Chris Rock.
In the video, Sandler sings of his heartbreak over his Saturday Night Live firing, unsure what he would do next. However, the song then takes a twist reflective of his life. He continues, “NBC said that I was done, then I made over $4 billion at the box office, so I guess you could say I won.”
Elsewhere, Sandler’s return as Saturday Night Live host celebrated his time on the show. Guests including Jimmy Fallon, Shawn Mendes and Kristen Wiig appeared in a sketch featuring Sandler’s characters made famous on SNL and in subsequent movies such as Billy Madison, The Waterboy and Little Nicky. But the show wasn’t all about Sandler.
Sandler couldn’t let his time as guest host of Saturday Night Live pass without paying homage to his good friend Chris Farley. The comic sang a song about his former SNL castmate in his characteristic style. Sandler referenced Farley’s characters and antics, both on screen and off, throughout the musical tribute.
Meanwhile, another video uploaded by the SNL official account onto YouTube captures the moment. Sandler sings, “He was a one-man party, you know I’m talking about… my friend Chris Farley.” The former recalls a time he caught Farley crying in the SNL office, listening to a KC and the Sunshine Band song. Apparently, the late comedian explained that it made him sad because it reminded him of his dad.
However, as Sandler recalls the incident in which Farley was crying to KC and the Sunshine Band in the Saturday Night Live office, he appears to choke up himself. Indeed, the comedian later revealed to the Don Patrick Show that he had found it tough rehearsing for the performance.
Keen Sandler fans will know that the comic has performed his musical homage to Chris Farley before. In October 2018 Netflix released 100% Fresh, which is an Adam Sandler special featuring standup routines peppered with his trademark comical songs. And there, viewers were treated to another touching musical tribute to his friend Farley.
The homage referenced Farley’s famous character Matt Foley, a motivational speaker who, in his own words, lived “in a van down by the river.” But for Sandler, rehearsals stirred up memories of his friend that are still raw. As the comic explained in an interview on the Dan Patrick Show in May 2019, “I couldn’t really sing it out loud.”
Sandler continued, “I was kind of mumbling because [Farley’s] image and stuff was making me off and upset. I was like, ‘Oh man, I got to prepare for this – for the show – to try not to break down.’” Indeed, Farley’s death in December 1997 at the age of 33 is clearly something that still affects Sandler.
Meanwhile, Farley’s death is broached in Sandler’s musical homage. At the time, friends and colleagues had worried about Farley’s heavy drinking and drug use and drew comparisons to the comedian’s idols, John Belushi and John Candy. But, as the song went, “[Farley] said, ‘Those guys are my heroes, that’s all fine and dandy.’”
However, despite friends’ concerns about his lifestyle, Farley loved to party. Furthermore, he was fearful that if he lost weight, he would lose his ability to be funny. Nevertheless, he was the same age and died of a drug overdose, just like his hero, John Belushi.
Meanwhile, Sandler still often thinks about his departed friend, as he points out in his musical tribute. And his kids are getting to know Farley through his movies and various YouTube clips. Indeed, as Sandler’s Saturday Night Live performance closes, he sings, “When they ask me who’s the funniest guy I ever knew, I tell them hands down, without a doubt, it’s you.”