Over a decade ago, I rode a Greyhound from Toronto to the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, to see a bunch of artists I liked. One of them was Iggy Pop. Iggy was scheduled to play at 4 p.m. – a mediocre time slot for someone who was, in my opinion, perhaps the most important person at the festival. But in Lolla-land, he was an old novelty. I got a good spot for the show and it was one of the best of my life.
I thought of that when Adam Sandler’s new comedy special, 100% Fresh, popped up on Netflix in late October. It arrived, so far as I could tell, with little fanfare for a celebrity of such influence. It was not advertised the way those garbage Netflix originals are, auto-playing as soon as you log in, force-feeding you a trash-heap trailer you didn’t ask for and instantly hate. I’d have thought Adam Sandler was too big to bury in the bargain bin.
Not that I’m a fan, mind you. I’ve never found the Sandman very funny. His vaguely homophobic bro shtick – those goofy voices mixed with deadpan chill that launched a slew of mid-1990s and early 2000s comedies that declined almost exponentially in quality since Billy Madison – never bowled me over the way it did other teenage boys.
So I did not have high hopes for 100% Fresh, even though a few of my friends said it was terrific and it enjoys a 92 per cent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. When I first heard the title – a nod to the critical failure of literally every schlocky Sandler vehicle on Rotten Tomatoes except Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer – I assumed it might be an introspective sort of show, an hour-long meditation on Sandler’s career and how he’s fallen from the spotlight. After all, meta is hip and Netflix is banking big on millennial nostalgia with remakes and revivals, such as Full House and Gilmore Girls. Its commitment to Adam Sandler fits that mold perfectly.
But 100% Fresh is nothing like I expected. It is neither meditative nor schlocky, barely personal and, except for the ending, totally disinterested in the past.
It also isn’t crap – it’s hilarious.
At 73 minutes, the special comprises jokes Sandler seems to have been honing for months, if not years. It’s filmed piecemeal, showing clips from his sets at clubs, concert halls and even incognito in a New York subway station. It moves like a highlight reel, splicing together the best jokes and songs from each set into a smoothly coherent performance. Sandler himself has matured wonderfully into his 50s, becoming a funny, down-to-earth narrator I want to hear more from. It reminds me why the world fell in love with him 30 years ago.
Not that all of his gags land. Some songs are predictable and a lot of the jokes are geared toward audiences – the same men who loved him as teenage boys, I suspect — who dig punchlines about sex acts. This will sound snooty (and maybe I am a bit), but I prefer his surreal tangents and astute observations, like when he describes, in song, the myriad ways his wife will signal that she’s annoyed with him: “You’re giving me a strange look in the mirror as I brush my teeth/I dunno what I could have done wrong, ’cause I literally just woke up/Maybe you had a dream that I cheated on you?”
100% Fresh is a fitting reminder to never underestimate the greats.
Sometimes, age actually makes them better.