Adam Sandler - They’re All Gonna Laugh at You! Music Album Reviews

Adam Sandler - They’re All Gonna Laugh at You! Music Album Reviews
Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit a 1993 comedy album full of dick and fart jokes, and the brilliant, self-effacing man who made them work.

If comedy’s eternal wellsprings are shame and humiliation, consider the possibility the form has seen no purer practitioner than Adam Sandler. Even now, as a 56-year-old multimillionaire, he looks as nervous and furtive in front of a microphone as he did at 28 when he starred in Billy Madison, the 1995 breakout hit about a contemptible man-child forced to repeat school from kindergarten onward. Even in the year 2022, when the search string “adam sandler oscar snub” returns credible results, he still enters every room armed only with the unshakeable conviction that he, himself, should not be in it, a conviction written on his squinting face, weighing down on his hunched shoulders. The ancient Groucho Marx dictum—“I wouldn’t want to join any club that would have me as a member”—isn’t even self-immolating enough for the profound sense of unworthiness that seems to consume Sandler like some kind of existential indigestion, and it’s possible no one has twisted himself into more pitiable shapes, abased himself more thoroughly onscreen, than he has over the course of his career.

If there is any deeper reason that Adam Sandler’s filthy and juvenile comedy has endured—and it has endured, proving so influential that entire movies have been made around the idea of his fame—then it is in this coursing root of self-loathing. Perhaps this is also why Sandler achieved his comic apotheosis in a medium even more lowly, if possible, than the Saturday Night Live skit: the comedy album, a loner’s medium even within comedy’s low-lit environs. You don’t even have to venture out to a basement venue, risking eye contact with others, to experience it. All you needed for They’re All Gonna Laugh At You! was a CD player, headphones, maybe one conspiratorial listener, and your own invincible sense of shame. You needed, in short, to be in seventh grade.

That’s how old I was the first time someone—it may have been the kid named Dave, but more likely it was was my neighbor Brad—plugged a set of headphones into a Discman, finding my eyes the way Natalie Portman would one day gaze into Zach Braff’s in Garden State, and waited for my life to be changed by the immortal words, “Now, take that shampoo bottle and stick it up my ass.”

The song—given the bland brown-paper-bag title “At a Medium Pace” and set to midtempo acoustic-ballad guitars—described a series of ritualized abasements and humiliations that only started with the shampoo bottle. Listening as an adult, it’s at least technically imaginable—if you are looking for the most charitable possible interpretation—to hear “At a Medium Pace” as something like a sub’s sincere bedroom wishlist, maybe a funny but no-longer-horrifying actual love song. But as seventh graders, we were no more prepared to imagine that than we were to go cliff jumping. We had only known our bodies as sites of disgust, and out of the hazy leap towards imagining them as sites of mutual pleasure, we got something like “At a Medium Pace,” which felt like a dispatch from a frightening adult world of shooting fluids, inexplicable desires, and unspeakable creativities. We listened to “At a Medium Pace” and laughed loudly with wide eyes, briefly and harmlessly exorcizing the terrors surrounding the act we could neither get our minds around nor stop ourselves from trying to envision. It was sort of an anti-porn, shared in the same furtive spirit.

If this is your frame of mind, then They’re All Gonna Laugh at You! is the Magna Carta, a document pressed with clammy fingers into equally clammy palms. They’re All Gonna Laugh at You! functioned almost like a rite of passage, its title confirming and granting communion with our very worst fears. As a 12-year-old, the only rule of human society you’ve internalized is its boundless capacity for cruelty and humiliation; the world seems custom-built to annihilate your budding and fragile sense of self, and yet you’re asked to step into it, daily. If you were lucky, you had well-meaning adults around you to help you, but to feel truly understood, you might have turned to something like, say, “The Severe Beating of a High School Janitor.”

These recurring bits—in which a series of low-level authority figures are subjected to ruthless beatings, with their whimpering cries and cracking bones providing the punchlines—were evidence to some critics of a hopeless nihilism. But what they might have missed is that in each one, the person enduring the beating was Sandler himself. They were his yelps (“My sideburns!”), his pleas, and the implicit invitation was to imagine ourselves receiving the beating, not doling it out. This wasn’t some Clockwork Orange–style exercise in cheerful sociopathy; this was self-loathing, creatively realized via some excellent foley work.

They’re All Gonna Laugh at You! was released in 1993, two years before Billy Madison went straight to No. 1 at the box office, prompting the unified disdain and mortification of a generation of film critics (“One of the most execrable movies ever made,” Richard Schickel wrote in Time, a review I still remember for teaching me a new word) and cementing Adam Sandler movies in the cultural landscape. But if Billy Madison birthed the Sandler Industrial Complex, They’re All Gonna Laugh at You! functioned like a shadow recruitment tool. Written and recorded with a cast that would help shape the next two decades of comedy—Robert Smigel, Bob Odenkirk, Judd Apatow, Conan O’Brien—the album snuck out into the world to near-total indifference, only building momentum as word spread, pre-internet, of its puerility. “We didn’t see the album budging on the charts for a while,” remembered producer Brooks Arthur, whose credits, besides helping Sandler record convincing farts, included Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” “Then little by little, we started to see it come alive.” By the end of the year, Sandler was noticing people shouting lines at him from the “Toll Booth Willie” skit during his concerts. Eventually, the album went double platinum.

The critical reception to They’re All Gonna Laugh at You!, insofar as one existed, agreed on one thing: Sandler’s sketches were “terminally unfunny,” he went on “ad nauseam about bodily functions and the futile pursuit of kinky sex,” and it was all “embarrassingly adolescent.” “This man needs help—not a microphone,” concluded one newspaper columnist, who went on to contrast Sandler’s album unfavorably to the recently released Jeff Foxworthy tract, “You Might Be a Redneck If…” Another summed up the appeal even more succinctly: “Stupid, but young boys like it.”

Stupid, but young boys like it. Even if young boys as a purchasing bloc were largely unacquainted with the opinions of local newspaper columnists, we nonetheless reveled in our awareness that Sandler’s humor struck many sentient beings north of 15 as indefensible, mystifying, barely classifiable even as “humor.” Indeed, it was central to its appeal. Sandler was our guy, someone whose very introduction onscreen on SNL seemed to contain an apology, and a tacit acknowledgment that someone more talented, with better ideas, should almost certainly be in his place.

He had distinguished himself on SNL with a series of “bits” that redefined just how slight something could be and still make it to air. If an older generation of comics like Steve Martin or Andy Kaufman embodied something of the punk-rock promise—that even without honing your chops, you could get onstage and express yourself to a willing audience—then middle and elementary school kids saw something similar in Sandler, a big brother to us and a little brother to the cast who was somehow allowed to go on national television, squish his face together, and yell “gimme some candy” to laughter and adulation. In actor Jim Downy’s famous speech delivered two years later in Billy Madison—“What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard…. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul”—kids sensed the shocked proxy of every adult in our vicinity, and we giggled in delight. We knew this stuff was ruthlessly, remorselessly dumb, and that its very existence in the public sphere was an affront, a burp on the intercom during the morning announcements.

And yet, even in comedy swamps as choked and fetid as this one, peculiar ideas could take shape and linger. “The Longest Pee” might be the stupidest two minutes of audio to which I’ve ever purposefully listened—it’s just the sound of a pee that goes on longer than it’s supposed to, that’s it—but the mounting concern in Sandler’s voice (“Oh man,” he wails, as the sound, supervised by super-producer Arthur—in whose studio Bruce Springsteen recorded his first three albums—grows to impossible levels of water pressure and velocity) is funny, goddamn it. There is something lurking in his voice—despair tinged with hysteria, or maybe the other way around—that makes it oddly more discomfiting than, say, the roughly contemporaneous bathroom scene in Dumb and Dumber. If Sandler’s comedy has aggravated so many critics so profoundly, perhaps it’s because his detractors, too, sensed that there was something deeper, and not entirely dismissable, swimming around in the bowels of his work. “Adam doesn’t have much interest in being cool or hipper than the room,” Judd Apatow told Spin in an oral history of the album. “He’s not a smartass. He’s not cynical. He just loves being funny. He’s a Rodney Dangerfield guy.”

Inside Apatow’s invocation of “Rodney Dangerfield guy,” of course, was some subtextual cultural coding. Dangerfield, particularly in film roles like Caddyshack, made comedic hay out of a very particular loaded cultural trope—the American Jew crashing the party of the horrified WASPs—and Sandler, from Billy Madison to Happy Gilmore and beyond, threw himself into the same role: the self-designated turd in the punch bowl, the foul smell spoiling the dinner party. Unlike his Borscht Belt forefathers, Sandler didn’t usually play up the mannerisms associated with the stereotype of the American Jew. Hunched over in basketball shorts rather than pulling anxiously at his too-tight starched shirt, Sandler wrapped himself in his internalized self-loathing like a bathrobe instead of straining against it like a straitjacket. In his sneaky version of assimilation, he allowed every American kid, whether they had a bar mitzvah or not, safe passage for their suspicions that they, too, were the turd in the punch bowl. If Sandler’s comedy wavers between the more collegiate environs of The State and Mr. Show and the gutter of the Jerky Boys and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, never claiming allegiance to one camp or the other, then it’s because he knows that somewhere in this indeterminate region is the precise locus of his appeal, the reason that entire generations have not been able to get his voice out of their heads.

I am not so depraved or insane as to suggest that everything on They’re All Gonna Laugh at You! is still as funny to me now, a 41-year-old father, as it was when I was a 12-year-old in the era of JNCOs and Sun-In. A handful of the 22 tracks now strike me as boring and pointless as they must have seemed to those regional newspaper critics. But I can still hear some of that darkness squirming around in here. There is no laughing on this album that is not done queasily—all his characters, even his sympathetic ones, are mush-mouths, screechers, or quaverers. Take, for example, the “Oh, Mom…” sketch, from which the album takes its name. Like every Sandler bit, the gag reveals itself within the first few seconds: Here, the joke is the mom who won’t stop shrieking “No! No!!! They’re all gonna laugh at you!” in response to even her children’s most mundane requests. On the surface, it’s a one-note riff on a scene from the movie Carrie. But then there is that screech itself, which digs a little deeper every time Sandler unleashes it. As the skit gets more ridiculous (“Mom, will you please pass the salad dressing?” “No!!!!”), something else happens, something that keys into his best work. It’s not much of a leap to envision the skit as a portrayal of Sandler’s own psyche, gathered around the dinner table. The next time you see him slouching in front of some paparazzi lens, imagine this is the voice he is blocking out.

Over the years, a great many people who would otherwise not eagerly throw themselves into dick and fart jokes with Sandler’s enthusiasm have thought about this voice, quite a lot, and they have attempted to put some of their thinking on screen. If there by now exists, in the cultural imagination, anything close to an idea of a “serious” Adam Sandler role, that is because Paul Thomas Anderson was unable to rid himself of the character that Adam Sandler plays—the frightened creature sidling out of the dark, wracked equally by mind-obliterating fear and self-loathing and bursts of annihilating rage. Flush with cultural capital after the massive success of 1997’s Boogie Nights and 1999’s Magnolia, Anderson wrote Punch-Drunk Love, the first-ever “thinking person’s Adam Sandler movie.” To the astonishment and dismay of many interviewers, Anderson recalled how he had visited the set of Sandler’s 2000 movie Little Nicky to discuss the possibility of collaboration. He had seen Happy Gilmore, he explained, and was entranced. Thus were we treated to our first sight of Adam Sandler, singer of “Lunch Lady Land,” sitting with a shit-eating grin across the table from PTA and Charlie Rose. When Rose reports, gravely, to the camera that critics have called it “the best performance of [Sandler’s] career,” his nervous whinnying giggle is audible in the background.

There was an implicit offer at that moment, one that Sandler refused. Lots of comedians have reached the stage when they tire of falling on their faces for the amusement of the public: Think of Steve Martin, who has by now styled himself as a sort of in-house humorist for The New Yorker, provoker of urbane smiles, and then remember the character he played in 1979’s The Jerk, which is not so far off from the buffoon Sandler himself plays; or Bill Murray, who starred in low-rent films like 1981’s Stripes just to have a chance to perform his cosmic-idiot schtick before striding into the embrace of Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch. If Sandler had gone this route, as a great many critics of the era expected him to, he would have embarked on a much more typical, and far less volatile, career—the comedian who made raucous and generally disdained entertainments that he would go on to recall fondly in his autumnal years, fondly but dismissively. Jamie Foxx took this road with the Ray biopic and never looked back, saying of his early comedies, like Booty Call: “Horrible…. There was no art in it.”

But not Sandler, who has never wanted to choose between making films like Jack and Jill or Hubie Halloween or starring in the Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems. The production company that was born from his massive run of late-’90s hits, Happy Madison, continues to churn out films, and while everyone agrees many are transparently terrible, the conversation gets interesting when you notice how little agreement there is on which ones are the terriblest: For years, 2011’s Jack and Jill was shorthand for “the worst film ever made,” and yet it has acquired an admiring cult following for scenes like this, which contains the best and most dialed-in line readings I’ve seen from Al Pacino in decades.

Sandler has continued writing silly songs, which he performs on concert tours to rhapsodic audiences, and he continues to mock the very idea of critical respect at any podium he reads from: Upon accepting his Best Male Lead award at the Independent Spirit Awards for 2020’s Uncut Gems, he gave “a shoutout to my fellow nominees, who will now and forever be known as the guys who lost to fuckin’ Adam Sandler,” in his best Sandman voice. In his mind, he’s still the buffoon on the date with the valedictorian, shouting pointless obscenities at an uncomprehending world attempting to smooth over or ignore him. Sandler has remained loyal to the buffoon, in part because he knows the buffoon helped get him where he is—when The New York Times asked Josh and Benny Safdie about the autobiographical roots of Sandler’s Howard Ratner character in Uncut Gems, they pointed to their own haggard, put-upon father and recalled the time he bought each of them a disastrously inappropriate comedy CD called They’re All Gonna Laugh at You!, which the two of them, aged 7 and 9, listened to on headphones for hours on end. “They’re not just comedy records,” Benny said, the awe palpable in his voice. “They’re worlds.”
Share on Google Plus

About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Adam Sandler - They’re All Gonna Laugh at You! Music Album Reviews Adam Sandler - They’re All Gonna Laugh at You! Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 20, 2022 Rating: 5


Post a Comment