Family & Companions
A comedian who weathered more than his fair share of the critics' ire, Rob Schneider continued to get the last laugh. Although he showed promise with his both his impersonations and original characters on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) and scored with several top-lined comedies like "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigalo" (1999), Schneider owed much of his longevity to longtime best friend Adam Sandler, who continually cast him in memorable cameos and supporting roles in hits like "The Waterboy" (1998). Despite coining several catchphrases that captured the national imagination -"Makin' copies!," "You put your weed in there," and "You can do eeet!!" -the self-professed "short and schlubby" comedian struggled to gain respect but found many detractors eager to use his name as a punchline. No matter how maligned Schneider or his projects were, Sandler and other loyal friends were quick to keep him employed in projects the comic helped elevate, making him the go-to man for hysterical cameos and supporting roles in big screen comedies.
Born Oct. 21, 1963 in San Francisco, CA, to Pilar, a kindergarten teacher, and Marvin Schneider, a real estate broker, Robert Michael Schneider grew up in the Bay Area suburb of Pacifica. Despite his mother's fervor for higher education, Schneider dropped out of junior college to perform his jokes at Haight-Ashbury cafes and comedy clubs. Building a reputation on the circuit, Schneider moved to Los Angeles, where he met future pal and colleague Adam Sandler. Continuing to perform stand-up, he opened for comedians like Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld before making his major network television debut in 1987 on "Late Night with David Letterman" (NBC, 1982-1993). His big break came three years later, with an appearance on the Dennis Miller-hosted "13th Annual Young Comedians Special" (HBO, 1989). Legendary "Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels happened to be watching, and hired the young comic to join the show as a writer, along with another young comedian, David Spade.
Quickly rising to a featured cast member, Schneider's four-season tenure on "SNL" (from 1990-94) laid the groundwork for the rest of his career. Besides earning nominations for three Emmys and a Peabody Award as part of the writing team, Schneider's memorable characters highlighted his shameless, "anything-g s" comic style. Playing Tiny Elvis, The Sensitive Naked Man and Orgasm Guy helped Schneider make a name for himself in a very large and talented cast. Two of his characters spawned catchphrases that briefly took the nation by storm; the first being the tie-dyed owner of a curio shop whose one selling point for all of his products was "You put your weed in there!" Even more popular was the inescapable Richard Laymer, an office worker who lurked near the copier, narrating the attempts of any fellow employees to use the machine with the phrase, "Makin' copies!" while playfully calling them strange nicknames, with "Randy" becoming "The Randster," "The Randmeister," and "The Rand Ol' Opry." Promoted to repertory cast member in 1993, Schneider thrived in his "SNL" era, one marked by an exclusive and increasingly vulgar boys' club atmosphere dominated by Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Chris Rock and Spade. Off-screen, Schneider and Sandler became close friends, with Schneider co-writing and co-performing several tracks on Sandler's Grammy-nominated, double-platinum comedy albumThey're All Gonna Laugh At You! (1993).
Cashing in on his TV momentum, Schneider appeared in the Scott Bakula/Kathy Ireland sports comedy "Necessary Roughness" (1991), playing a sportscaster with familiar speech patterns. He was more widely seen as a tip-mongering bellboy in the blockbuster sequel "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" (1992). In an attempt to capitalize on his kid-friendly appeal, Schneider goofed it up in the bizarre, martial-arts fantasy "Surf Ninjas" (1993), but fared better at the box office as a sleazy office worker who humorously fails to bilk "The Beverly Hillbillies" (1993) out of their fortune. Playing to his strengths, Schneider inspired laughter with an uncredited bit as a wimpy cop of the future in Sylvester Stallone's "Demolition Man" (1993), and went on to reunite with Sly in "Judge Dredd" (1995) as his wisecracking sidekick. His movie successes helped cushion the blow when Michaels fired Schneider - as well as several other popular cast members - at the end of the 1993-94 season, all in an effort to make room for new comedic blood.
Freed from his "SNL" duties - but deprived of its platform - Schneider appeared in the moderately successful yet critically ignored Kelsey Grammer submarine comedy, "Down Periscope" (1996) before returning to NBC as the co-star of a new sitcom. Based on an even cattier British show, "Men Behaving Badly" (NBC, 1996-97) cast Schneider and Ron Eldard as proud male chauvinist roommates, with Justine Bateman as the woman who comments wryly on their behavior. Promos featuring a naked Schneider failed to drum up interest, and the show itself was a ratings disappointment. Schneider catapulted from failed sitcoms to full-fledged movie stardom, however, thanks largely to the support of Sandler, who cast the comic in his films and developed starring vehicles for him as well. Even if playing Jean-Claude Van Damme's quippy sidekick in "Knock Off" (1998) was a step backwards, Schneider's career went into overdrive thanks to the ever loyal Sandler and cinematic magic touch witnessed by a string of hit comedies.
With a strong cameo in the Sandler smash "The Waterboy" (1998), Schneider earned big laughs with his oft-imitated rallying cry: "You can do eeet!!" The character, the catchphrase and Schneider himself all became fixtures in future Sandler films, like the successful "Big Daddy" (1999), where Schneider played Sandler's best friend, a goodhearted deliveryman. His career hot again, Schneider wrote and starred in "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigalo" (1999), the inaugural production from Sandler's Happy Madison company. As an aquarium cleaner-turned-unlikely male prostitute, Schneider delivered outrageous comedy mixed with a surprising sympathy for the increasingly bizarre women - including a Tourette's-afflicted Amy P hler - who engage his studly services. The film's mixture of sweetness and raunch, along with an appealing lead performance by Schneider, led to huge box office.
At the height of his earning power, Schneider commanded $1 million to co-write and star in "The Animal" (2001), which capitalized on the public's interest in the brand-new hit TV show, "Survivor" (CBS, 2000- ) by casting fan favorite contestant Colleen Haskell - an untested actress - as his mysterious love interest. Playing a wimpy would-be cop, Schneider developed amazing powers once a scientist transplanted animal parts on his body during life-saving surgery. Sandler even briefly popped up in a cameo. Although the film was a mild success at the box office and boasted several silly but fun sequences -including Schneider channeling his inner dolphin - critics savaged the project and audiences followed suit. The combination of Schneider's perceived lack of charisma as a leading man and the outlandishness of the film's plot seemed to solidify public opinion against the actor, with his name becoming an easy punchline for writers and comedians.
"The Hot Chick" (2002), Schneider's co-writing and starring follow-up, met with outright malice from critics, reacting more to Schneider himself than to the underrated body-switching comedy, which did decent box office. While including a clever "SNL" catchphrase callback in a Sandler cameo, the film also gave Schneider his most complex comedy part. After a pair of magical earrings causes Rachel McAdams to switch bodies with a small-time crook, the film followed Schneider, who proved both funny and touching as he essayed the spirit of a teenage queen bee. Next up, Schneider stuck to what had always worked, making a typical bite-sized appearance in Sandler's "Mr. Deeds" (2002) and the animated "Eight Crazy Nights" (2002), in which he both narrated the Hanukah-based film and voiced a Chinese waiter. While not the powerhouses of their predecessors, the films proved impervious to critics and did respectable business from Sandler's loyal fans.
The critically-bashed comedian took a particularly pointed barb, however, with a 2002 episode of the animated series, "South Park" (Comedy Central, 1997- ) titled "The Biggest Douche in the Universe." Although the writers pegged TV psychic John Edwards as the subject of their title, they considered Schneider enough of a frontrunner to satirize him as well. In a stinging running joke, a series of trailers ran throughout the show for various brain-dead movies in which Schneider is magically transformed into a stapler, a carrot and the oft-killed character Kenny. Although Schneider took the joke magnanimously, the episode and audience response reflected the prevailing low opinion of the comedian at that time. As Sandler moved away from the dim-bulb aspects of his comedic persona with each film, the bulk of the broad comic relief fell to Schneider, who seemed thrilled to don yet another oddball accent as witnessed by his performance of Ula in "50 First Dates" (2004). Another of his strange concoctions, Schneider's characterization offended some as a blatant deadbeat Hawaiian male stereotype, compounded by Ula's unhappy marriage, pack of willful children, and repeated physical humiliations for the enjoyment of white onlookers. While Sandler's romance with a memory-impaired Drew Barrymore covered some surprisingly emotionally resonant territory, Schneider remained firmly pigeonholed and disparaged by critics.
A big part of the critical animosity towards Schneider did derive from his tendency to play heavily exaggerated ethnic roles in Sandler films. Although the actor excused himself by invoking his own complex ancestry - born to a secular Jewish father and Catholic mother, herself the daughter of a Filipina and American - some critics were not convinced. Never afraid to defend himself, the outspoken Schneider wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times in 2004, defending his portrayal of Ula. The debate itself, as well as Schneider's eagerness to challenge naysayers, would continue to mark his career. After punching his Sandler cameo timecard in the surprisingly successful remake of the football classic, "The Longest Yard" (2005), Schneider returned to his most successful solo role, as the newly widowed "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" (2005). A painful copy of the original, the sequel found America's weirdest export entertaining another series of outrageous women, while trying to catch a murderer intent on wiping out Europe's top "man-whores." Without the sweetness and humor of the original, the film failed at the box office and gave Schneider's considerable detractors a fresh opportunity to rake him over the coals. For his work in the film, Schneider was awarded the dubious honor of a Razzie Award for Worst Actor. This, however, would not be the last public lambasting the comic would take for this film.
While writing a piece on the difficulty that year's Best Picture nominees had faced in getting made, L.A. Times critic Patrick Goldstein referred to the Schneider film, saying it was "sadly overlooked at Oscar time because apparently nobody had the foresight to invent a category for Best Running Penis Joke Delivered by a Third-Rate Comic." In response, Schneider took out full-page ads in Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, attacking Goldstein's lack of awards and professional recognition, writing, "Maybe you didn't win a Pulitzer Prize because they haven't invented a category for Best Third-Rate, Unfunny Pompous Reporter Who's Never Been Acknowledged by His Peers." He continued the attack on Goldstein during talk show appearances, culminating with Roger Ebert capping his scathing review of "European Gigalo," with, "As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks." Schneider fired back in the press at Ebert, but public opinion overwhelmingly sided against the actor. The two publicly buried the hatchet in 2007, when Schneider sent the cancer-stricken Ebert a get-well bouquet and card, and the critic said he sincerely hoped the actor would make a high-quality film.
Schneider's pen only got sharper, however, when he chose his next target: Mel Gibson. After Gibson's drunken arrest and misogynistic, anti-Semitic rantings to the police became public, Schneider took out another full-page ad in Variety. His "open letter to the Hollywood community" avowed that he would never work with Gibson, and urged others to do the same, undercutting its effectiveness a bit with a jokey plug for an upcoming film, "Big Stan" (2008). Returning to the Happy Madison factory, Schneider churned out small roles in underwhelming fare like "Grandma's Boy" (2006) as well as box office successes like the Sandler vehicle, "Click" (2006). A lead role in the cookie-cutter underdog sports comedy "The Benchwarmers" (2006) gave Schneider a moderate hit at the box office, but also his fourth Razzie nomination, reflecting an overweening attitude towards the actor rather than a serious critique on his performance.
Critics continued to negatively single out Schneider even in small roles, decrying what some considered the borderline-racist humor of his portrayals of "Asian Minister" in the Sandler/Kevin James gay marriage comedy, "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" (2007), "Salim" in the Sandler Israeli-superhero flick "You Don't Mess with the Zohan" (2008), and an Indian horse seller in the Sandler fantasy kid picture, "Bedtime Stories" (2008). Continuing the trend, the Razzies also bequeathed Schneider his sixth overall nomination - this for Worst Actor of the Decade in 2009. For all the hard knocks he took professionally, Schneider received little publicity for his charitable works. By 2009, the comedian's charity, The Rob Schneider Music Foundation, had spent 14 years working with the Pacifica School District and had donated almost $2 million to maintain the community's school instrumental music program.
Critical claws came out, however, came with the straight-to-DVD U.S. release of "Big Stan" (2009). Schneider directed and produced the movie, as well as starred as a con artist sentenced to jail and so obsessed with the possibility of being raped that he becomes a martial arts expert. Critics outdid themselves excoriating every aspect of the film and of Schneider's involvement, but the actor had some relief licking his professional wounds by embarking on a comedy tour and nabbing one of the starring roles in the summer comedy tentpole, "Grown Ups" (2010), starring his old "SNL" buddies, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and David Spade.
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Special Thanks (Special)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Was featured performer and writer on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC)
Feature debut, "Necessary Roughness"
Co-starred in the NBC sitcom "Men Behaving Badly"
Cast in the comedy feature "Waterboy" starring Adam Sandler
Played the title character in "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo"
Portrayed a delivery guy in the comedy feature "Big Daddy," which starred Adam Sandler
Cast in the demonic comedy "Little Nicky" starring Adam Sandler
Voiced a waiter and served as the narrator for Adam Sandler's "Eight Crazy Nights"
Appeared in the comedy feature "The Hot Chick" starring Adam Sandler
Cast as Sandler¿s one-eyed Hawaiian sidekick, Ula in "50 First Dates"
Appeared in the Disney live action feature "Around the World in 80 Days"
Reprised role as Deuce Bigalow in "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo"
Co-starred with David Spade and Jon Heder in "The Benchwarmers"
Cast as a Canadian-Japanese wedding-chapel minister in the Sandler comedy "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry"
Played a Palestinian cab driver and the title character's (Sandler) nemesis in "You Don't Mess With the Zohan"
Starred in ensemble comedy "Grown Ups," about five friends who reunite for a Fourth of July holiday weekend; film also starred Kevin James and former "Saturday Night Live" cast members Sandler, Spade, and Chris Rock