While it’s now an accepted fact that Sandler is an accomplished dramatic actor in select films, Click with its iconic poster art of Sandler holding a TV remote and smirking, seems like the antithesis of sincere emotion. Thomas leans into this dissonance, bringing up the poster on his delightfully scuffed slideshow. He then moves onto the next image, a still of the section that brought his dad to tears. He describes it to us.
The scene itself sounds undeniably moving, but it’s the way Thomas speaks about it that carries me away. There’s a reverence, a delight in his voice. I feel like I’ve been dragged away by him at a party. That I’m lying on his bed, watching him prance around the room, listening to him tell a story he just needs to get out, or else he’ll explode.
At its best, this is what Enter the Sandman is, the intimate and idiosyncratic ravings of a man who loves Adam Sandler. Who loves him not in the trendy, film-bro way (that admittedly I subscribe to) of respecting his dramatic, against type, performances in Uncut Gems and The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), but in a deeply sincere, whole hog way, where you love the whole filmography, or at least most of it. He wears a replica of Sandler’s shirt from The Waterboy with pride.
Keegan Thomas spent 2022 watching all forty-something Adam Sandler star vehicles. Throughout the show, he manages to, at least briefly, touch on all of them. The show is as varied as Sandler’s career, with Thomas finding different lenses to look at the films through, and different comedic ways to present them. We jump from Shakespeare to Ted Talk, short educational facts, to three (supposedly AI written) raps. This keeps the show constantly feeling alive. If a bit doesn’t work for me, it doesn’t really matter. It’ll probably work for someone else, and we’re quickly onto the next one.
The slideshow, along with a soundboard, are well deployed to keep the energy up. Keegan finds comedy in rough edges, with the tech feeling deliberately lazy in a way that overall works for me. It contributes to the un-pretentious and amicable tone of the show, keeping you feeling like you’re having a laugh with a friend.
While it’s clear that Thomas loves Sandler’s work, he isn’t afraid to point out some of the more unfortunate aspects of his career. There are sections of the show where you’re just as likely to hear a controlled groan from the audience as a laugh, as he takes us through things that not only haven’t aged well, but likely were never funny in the first place.
Personally, I found myself wishing more time was spent on Thomas’s personal relationship with Sandler. While there are a few select stories about his family, and he describes a viewing experience of Pixels that makes me worry about all the popcorn I ate after dropping it on my chair at Readings Courtenay, they are fairly few and far between. I don’t think it would be in any way indulgent for Thomas to put more of himself in there. Sandler looks much more interesting through his eyes.
The biggest thing holding the show back however, is Thomas’s confidence. The material is all there but there’s a sense that Thomas is still finding his feet, and often struggles to trust himself. Killer lines end up muttered away, and punchlines aren’t given enough room to breathe. The occasional joke falls victim to Thomas over-prefacing it, trying to inform us that he’s self aware. For example, he is actually a confident and proficient rapper, but you wouldn’t guess it from how he talks about it. That all being said, I saw this show on opening night, and I have little doubt that by the end of the season this won’t be an issue. Even by the end of the hour, it seems like Thomas is feeling more comfortable.
Keegan Thomas’s passion is infectious. While I can’t say I came out a Happy Madison Productions convert, I was definitely swept away by the sermon. Above all, I have respect for the show's sincerity. Sandler is an easy punching bag, and it takes guts to not only approach his work with love, but to shout its praises from the roof-tops.
Enter the Sandman runs through to March 4th at the Fringe Bar. Tickets are available through the Fringe Website.