Sandler, 56, first came to national attention as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” After being fired from the cast following a five-year stint, Sandler launched a wildly successful movie career that has spanned more than 30 films, grossing over $3 billion worldwide.
“Adam Sandler has entertained audiences for over three decades with his films, music, and his tenure as a fan favorite cast member on ‘SNL,’” Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter said in a statement when Sandler’s prize was announced in December. “Adam has created characters that have made us laugh, cry, and cry from laughing.”
Sandler’s top hits include “Happy Gilmore,” “The Wedding Singer” and “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.” Although primarily known for slapstick comedy and overgrown man-child characters, Sandler has also excelled in multiple dramatic roles such as the films “Punch Drunk Love” and “Uncut Gems.”
Mark Twain recipients are honored with a night of testimonials and video tributes, often featuring previous award winners. Other comedians receiving the lifetime achievement award include Richard Pryor (the inaugural recipient in 1998), Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett and Dave Chapelle. Bill Cosby, the 2009 recipient, had his Mark Twain Prize rescinded in 2019 amid multiple allegations of sexual assault.
The long-running 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 Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Will Farrell, Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Julia Louise-Dreyfus. Show creator and producer Lorne Michaels won in 2004.
Among those scheduled to honor Sandler on Sunday night, according to the Kennedy Center, are Jennifer Aniston, Judd Apatow, Drew Barrymore, Steve Buscemi, Dana Carvey, Luis Guzmán, Tim Herlihy, Tim Meadows, Idina Menzel, Conan O’Brien, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, David Spade and Ben Stiller.
The ceremony will be broadcast nationally on CNN on March 26.
Ashraf Khalil, The Associated Press