Adam Sandler, Happy Madison Productions, and the Making of a Comedy Career

by Kathrine Esten

CAPTION: On the y-axis, see the SNL coefficient of a “Sandler-verse” project. On the x-axis, see the start year of the project.

I was fired, I was fired NBC said that I was done Then I made over $4 billion at the box office So I guess you could say I won

24 years after his (involuntary) departure from Saturday Night Live, Adam Sandler (1990-1995) returned as a first-time host to the show in 2019.2

When discussing the SNL coefficient, Sandler was one of the first actors that we brought up for analysis.

While Sandler left the show unceremoniously, he is arguably one of the most successful cast alumni as a massive film star with his own production company, Happy Madison Productions.

Since 1995, he has collaborated with several of his SNL costars, meriting a quantitative Variety article on the subject.3. Written in 2013, Variety’s article lists former cast member Rob Schneider and former SNL writer Tim Herlihy among his most frequent film collaborators.

Based on our data, we developed a chart to further quantify Sandler’s reputation for “hiring his friends” to fill out casting in his productions.

CAPTION: On the y-axis, see SNL alums who have collaborated with Sandler during and after his time on the show. On the x-axis, view how many projects each contributor has been involved in. Project titles are also visible via color-coding.

At present, 15 Sandler-involved projects have an SNL coefficient of at least 1.

As shown on our chart, Sandler’s films since 1990 have shown a steady rate of collaboration with actors and writers he met on SNL or through similar comedy networks.

His early qualifying projects are not starring roles (Coneheads (1993) is based on a sketch that premiered long before Sandler was on SNL and Dirty Work (1998) starred the late SNL legend Norm MacDonald).

This was followed by a steady production of low-coefficient films with 2-6 SNL cast members including I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry (2007).

Following the success of Grown Ups (2010), there is a rapid increase in heavy collaboration with other ensemble films.

Grown Ups, which featured 11 former SNL writers or actors including four in starring roles (David Spade (1989-1996), Sandler, Schneider, and Rock), became Sandler’s then-highest-grossing film worldwide with a gross of $271.4 million.4 The sequel, another box office success, premiered in 2013 with 19 SNL alumni in the credits.

In the next decade, Sandler was involved in 12 films with SNL coefficients above 1. In fact, Sandler had a qualifying project for 8 years in a row from 2010 to 2017 (Hotel Transylvania 3 (2018) did not have as high a coefficient as its two predecessors).

Potential SNL media expanded greatly in the 2010s, with significant credit to Sandler’s production company and ensemble-focused comedy projects. While his last qualifying film, Hubie Halloween (2020) came out two years ago, Sandler continues to build his comedy networks from SNL.

In recent talks with Variety, Sandler suggested that he may return as a host, potentially boosting past projects above the minimum coefficient. 5. Current cast members are also slated to appear in his upcoming projects with Sarah Sherman (2021-present) in You Are SO Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah! (2023).

Sandler’s departure from SNL under less than ideal conditions did not prevent him from building a career in the comedy world. In fact, his time on the show permitted a great number of his films to exist in the way they do today.


  1. Sandler, A. (2019, May 5). “Adam Sandler’s “I Was Fired” Monologue - SNL.” [Video]. Youtube. 

  2. NBCUniversal. (2019, April 5). “Adam Sandler To Return To ‘Saturday Night Live’ For His First Time As Host With Musical Guest Shawn Mendes On May 4.” NBC Entertainment. 

  3. Chaney, J. (2013, July 13). “A Quantitative Ranking of Adam Sandler’s Movie BFFs.” Variety. 

  4. Grown Ups 2 (2022, October 11). Box Office Mojo. 

  5. Schneider, M. (2022, September 29). “Adam Sandler (Hustle)”. In “Awards Circuit”. Variety. 

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