It’s known as a country music haven, but over the last 43 years, all kinds of songs have been sung at the Grand Ole Opry House.
Still, on Monday night, Adam Sandler was pretty much in uncharted territory at the historic Nashville venue.
He sang songs about smelly Uber drivers, a space station tryst and all manner of bodily functions. And there were sincere numbers too, like a tribute to his late friend, Chris Farley.
It was the latest stop on Sandler’s “Here Comes the Funny” tour, which also served as a kickoff for Nashville’s fourth annual Wild West Comedy Festival.
"I'm intimidated, but I like it,” Sandler said as he first stepped into the Opry circle. “I'm so scared being here, but then I thought, 'Well, I am the Opry Man,' so everything's all right."
That’s a nod, of course, to “Opera Man,” one of Sandler’s signature bits on Saturday Night Live in the early ‘90s.
“Haaaaaaaank Williams!” he bellowed.
But seriously, as far as comedians on a big music stage, Sandler’s less of a stretch than most. His comedic tunes like The Chanukah Song paved the way for Jimmy Fallon, James Corden and every other singing, dancing comedian currently ruling TV.
Between jokes, he shared more than a dozen songs, new and old, and started his set off with a tune that could almost be a modern country hit. With his best gruff southern drawl, Sandler tore through a laundry list of mixed-up bro-country clichés: catfishing in the summer rain, drinking strawberry wine out of a red plastic cup, and “dying in your arms under Alabama skies.”
Then, the line that ended the song abruptly: “But your dad said you've gotta dump me because I'm Jewish."
Sandler’s tour is promoting his latest Netflix film, Sandy Wexler. Naturally, he brought along several of his friends and perennial co-stars. Rob Schneider opened the evening, served as emcee and later brought the house down with a disarmingly great Elvis impersonation, crooning Are You Lonesome Tonight as Sandler strummed his guitar. David Spade worked the Joe Dirt part of his resume particularly hard in Tennessee, namechecking Cracker Barrel and sporting a Bass Pro Shop cap. Nick Swardson had the most effortless rapport with the audience, especially once he delved into the finer points of flatulence.
Still, Sandler’s in another stratosphere: never losing his connection with the crowd, even when an electric guitar is shorting out, or a catchphrase is being hollered out from the balcony for the 12th time.
The guitar came into play as he sang that tribute to Farley, played an updated fourth version of The Chanukah Song” (with 21st century celebrities), and turned his Wedding Singer tune Grow Old With You into a tribute to his family.
In between those final songs, Sandler brought up the Opry once again and thought of another departed figure in his life: his dad, whom he said urged him to get into country music.
"Let's go to Luckenbach, Texas,” he sang, referring to the Waylon Jennings tune. “That was the biggest song at my house. This a dream, and I appreciate it, and I know my dad is proud that I'm here tonight."