Chris Rock may have turned down an invitation to present at the 95th annual Academy Awards earlier this month, but there was no way he was missing this.
On Sunday, he appeared in Washington, D.C. at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to celebrate his old buddy Adam Sandler. The star of “Billy Madison,” “Uncut Gems,” and the forthcoming “Murder Mystery 2” was being fêted as this year’s recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Rock came out and, upon seeing Paul Pelosi, referenced the bond the two shared—being physically attacked. Whereas the 82-year-old San Francisco businessman (and husband of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi) was nearly killed by a deranged lunatic, Rock was merely whapped across the face by Will Smith.
Anyway, Rock discussed how when he first encountered Sandler he was set up to dislike him. Sandler had breezed into the Los Angeles comedy scene and was suddenly occupying a weekend slot at a club that he worked hard to secure. But the minute he saw him perform, Rock discovered what we all did: it’s impossible not to love this guy.
Well, almost impossible. In a well-timed slap to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Rock added: “The Oscars are f–king a–holes! If they don’t wanna give my man his props, we will tonight.”
Sandler campaigned hard this past year for his role as an NBA scout in the Netflix dramedy “Hustle,” but other than a SAG Award nomination, he did not get much traction. There was also a groundswell of support for his role of Howard Ratner in Josh and Benny Safdie’s epoch-making “Uncut Gems” in 2019. He received nods from the Independent Spirits and the National Board of Review that year, but, as time marches on, it becomes more evident just how groundbreaking and resonant this film and this performance actually are.
Other turns, like in “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” and “Punch-Drunk Love,” were also worthy of some recognition, in the view of many critics. (Same goes for “That’s My Boy,” but some aren’t ready for that level of truth!)
“That’s my guy. He’s been my guy for 30 years,” Rock said, with his Sandler’s family looking on.
In addition to Rock, those who appeared at the event to honor Sandler included Conan O’Brien, Pete Davidson, Idina Menzel, Drew Barrymore, and Steve Buscemi. Previous recent winners of the Mark Twain Prize include Jon Stewart, Dave Chappelle, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and David Letterman. When the award was initiated in 1998, the first to win it was Richard Pryor, posthumously. George Carlin’s win in 2008 was an unintended posthumous win, as the great comic died after the announcement of his selection but before the ceremony. Bill Cosby was stripped of his 2009 award after his conviction for sexual assault. For some reason, Mel Brooks has refused acceptance of the prize, as Robin Williams did previously.
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