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A Tale of Two Sandlers

Thanks to Reddit, Adam Sandler and his doppelganger recently met at the premiere of ‘The Do-Over’

Rachel Shukert
May 19, 2016

What’s better than one Adam Sandler? Now that I’ve asked this question, and realize there are plenty of smart-aleck responses to it, let me just answer it for you. What’s better than one Adam Sandler are two Adam Sandlers!

And that’s how it was at this week’s premiere of Sandler’s new film The Do-Over, to which a young man named Max Kessler was invited as a guest due to his shocking resemblance to a young Adam Sandler. What’s even spookier? In the film, Sandler plays a character named…Max Kessler. Really.

What shall we take from this? Did Sandler somehow stumble into Dostoevsky or Thomas Mann novel? Does life truly imitate art, or in this case, atmospheric German Romantic poetry? Do each of us have a doppelganger out there somewhere, dogging our every step, waiting patiently for the proper moment at which to cause us harm, or even, take our place? Who is this Max Kessler and what does he want from Sandler? How did he get that name?

The answers, in this case of supernatural double identity are relatively simple. Max Kessler is a nice Jewish boy who recently graduated from Syracuse University and works as an accountant in New York City. He was first made aware of his resemblance to the comedy star as a sixth-grader at summer camp, where he instantly became known as the kid who looks like Adam Sandler. (If you’re conversant in the social ecosystems of Jewish-tinged overnight camp, you’ll know instantly where this placed him in the camp hierarchy with counselors and campers alike.) Later, buoyed by clear genetic advantage, Kessler auditioned for casting directors to play alongside Sandler in That’s My Boy. He didn’t get the part, but he made it far enough through the process that he thinks his name may have stuck in somebody’s head—enough to be bestowed on Sandler’s latest character. Hence began an online journey of discovery, beginning with a post on Reddit and ended with a photo of Sandler, holding an hand-lettered poster inviting Kessler the Younger to his premiere, where presumably they presumably talked about basketball all night and became best friends and creative partners.

So that’s a heartwarming human interest story, all made possible by social media, which I’m becoming more and more convinced is our generation’s equivalent of the discovery of fire: on one hand, it illuminates and makes possible all manners of things that would have otherwise remained in the dark; on the other, crazy zealots can use it to burn you at the stake. But the question remains, how likely is it that each of us also have a creepy double?

Well, for those of us of Sander and Kessler’s, ahem, persuasion, the answer is pretty damn likely. Genetic studies have shown that all Ashkenazi Jews are at least 30th cousins to each other, and more often much closer than that. Remember, that picture of your great-great-grandmother in the shtetl that hung on the wall of your grandma’s house and scared you when you were a kid? That’s you, but for the glass eye and lack of modern dermatological advances. Believe me, we all knew someone at summer camp who looked like Adam Sandler. And there’s someone out there who looks like you too, lurking. And they will expect an invitation to your next big thing.

Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.