Written by Dan Hollis
Judd Apatow’s third film (after The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up) is Funny People. With a stellar cast including Adam Sandler, Jonah Hill, Leslie Mann, Seth Rogan, Eric Bana and Jason Schwartzman, the film really does live up to its name.
In a very frank but light-hearted chat, Adam Sandler sits down with Pure Movies to discuss everything from comedy, to oral sex, to winning an Oscar…
The film deals with the lives and loves of the stand-up comic scene. Why was the L.A. comic scene just so right for the Hollywood treatment?
Adam Sandler: Itâ€™s cool to see the stuff where they show you young Leslie (Mann), and what Jonah (Hill) and Seth (Rogan) and Jason Schwartzman are going through when they start. And my guy has already accomplished a lot, but when you are Jonahâ€™s age itâ€™s really exciting and, with my character, the career just becomes part of his life and heâ€™s just not appreciative any more. Itâ€™s an interesting subject.
Adam itâ€™s a terrific performance, how much of you is actually in there?
AS: My new thought about the movie is that Judd and I were roommates when I was 22 and he was 21 and he knows me best as that guy and doesnâ€™t a hundred percent realise that Iâ€™ve progressed another 20 years. He still thinks Iâ€™m the horny young man.
But youâ€™re not right?
AS: Iâ€™m not quite as horny. It depends what my wife is wearing.
In the film Georgeâ€™s reasons for getting into comedy were to try and get his fatherâ€™s approval. Is that the case with a lot of stand-ups and what reasons did you have for getting into comedy?
AS: Yeah, everyoneâ€™s probably got their back-story; I donâ€™t come from a place where I was tortured and I needed to let something out. I came from a happy home â€“ a little out of control at times but, my family, we all liked to be funny we all liked to make each other laugh and, yeah, I liked it the most when my father laughed, but that wasnâ€™t like I wanted his approval. I was just happy that he was happy. I feel relief for him that I went into this business and succeeded; my mother was very encouraging â€“ â€śYes, yes, Adam, youâ€™re very goodâ€ť â€“ but my father was more like â€śI think we gotta be a funny salesman, Adamâ€ť. But no, my career wasnâ€™t about getting my dadâ€™s approval; I was just happy to make some cash and let my dad rest.
If you had to give a bit of advice to an aspiring stand-up comic that would stand them in really good stead, what would that bit of advice be?
AS: 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 stand-up to actually develop the confidence to actually talk up there; I went through many phases, Judd always talked about it; like I would be the loud guy, then I was like the quiet guy, I really had no idea what I was doing. You gotta really give yourself time, thatâ€™s good advice to anyone starting, give yourself time to figure out what youâ€™re good at and what youâ€™re not good at.
This film seems very much an attempt to mix the broad comedy with a much more serious element. Would you sayÂ whether it depicts two different sides of your career?
AS: Uh huh, yeah, thatâ€™s good. I think it was all Judd, he had this idea, he said he had four different ideas for four different movies and he put them all together, and created this story. And it did require comedy â€“ stuff I was comfortable doing â€“ and it also required stuff I wasnâ€™t too excited about doing â€“ showing up on the day and having to be in different places in my head. So yeah, Judd wrote a movie where we all got to do some stuff we hadnâ€™t done before and it was exciting.
Are you trying to broaden the demographic of your appeal?
AS: Iâ€™ve got to tell you, I like the movies Iâ€™ve done in the past. I worked really hard on those movies and it was not a conscious effort to say I need to broaden my audience, it was just a movie Judd wrote. I was excited to do a movie by Judd. Whoever clicks with it, Iâ€™m happy to click with.
Do you have a theory as to why a lot of comedians tend to be terribly tragic figures, especially when their careers start to disappear a little â€“ Iâ€™m sure you are an exception to this â€“ but why is there such a strange mixture of comedians, some great and some terribly unhappy or strange?
AS: Thatâ€™s a common theme in a lot of comedians. I know a lot of comedians who are solid as a rock. Theyâ€™re very comfortable being around people, very comfortable with what theyâ€™ve accomplished. There are also a lot mental-cases out there that Iâ€™ve hung out with, and theyâ€™re fun to be around, they often make you feel better about your life. But there a lot of different types of comedians, there are neurotics, there are angry guys, there are self-haters, there are overly-confident guys out there which I guess stems from some pain.
Being the film that it is and having so many comedians in, was there a lot of joking around on set, and when did it happen? During the more tragic bits or how did it work?
AS: There was nervous laughter when Judd said â€śplease eat out my wifeâ€ť. Yeah everyone laughed for quite a while on that one. But it was a very concentrative set, Apatow was on a mission to make a very important movie to him and his life, and we were on a mission to make sure he got it accomplished. There was improv, but it wasn’t like we were goofing around the whole time, Judd was very focused with where he wanted the scenes to go and how he wanted to get there. Of course we all came up with a lot of our own stuff and if it fit, great, but if not, he’d guide us in a different direction. It wasn’t like, let me grab this banana and throw it at someone that’ll be funny, it was a bit more focused than that.
Adam, we see in the film your character watch all his old movies back, but if you had to do an Adam Sandler marathon, which films would you pick?
AS: Oh man, I don’t know, that’s a very good question… Big Daddy because Leslie’s in that. Oh, Big Daddy‘s the first one my wife’s in, so that’s easy to watch at home. And, honestly, probably the ones where I was the skinniest. Just turn the volume down and see that Daddy used to be skinny.
Growing up, did any British comedians influence your career?
AS: Of course! Benny Hill was a big deal in my house; he was on at 11 at night, and it was one of the shows that my father would let us stay up late for, my father would laugh, he’d get excited about the hot women on the show. I was always excited when Benny was hitting that older man on the head – yeah I love that man, what was that guy called?
AS: Slaphead they called him? Slaphead was great. Dudley Moore and Peter Cook. What else? I didn’t know about Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton till I was at NYU. My father would tell me they were good and when their movies were on I’d kind of tune out, but later on I realised they were very good.
With the stand-up scenes, was it more difficult performing the stand-up whilst being filmed, and having to get it right? Did you ad lib much or was it very tightly to the script?
AS: Little bit, little bit. But yeah, it does put the pressure on and it’s easier to do stand-up when you don’t really care that much, but when all of a sudden the cameras are rolling and you have to phrase it right and you have to get it right, you put pressure on it; sometimes it makes you a lot better, sometimes it makes you stumble more. But you’re doing a movie, so if you stumble, you can go back, say it again.
Do you hope to win an Oscar for this one Adam?
AS: Yeah I don’t really think about that that much. It’d be hilarious if I did.
Last edited: 30th August 2009
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