Bob Barker will likely be best remembered as the longtime host of The Price Is Right and for his animal activism, always taking the opportunity to remind us to spay and neuter our pets. The Navy veteran will be missed by his many fans, and his contributions to the world undoubtedly deserve to be commemorated following his passing at the age of 99. Like many people who grew up in the '90s, I have fond childhood memories of watching him on The Price Is Right, but I simply can’t let this moment pass without taking a look back at my personal favorite memory of Barker: his fight scene with Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore.
The game show legend died of natural causes on August 26 at his home in Los Angeles, and Adam Sandler was among the celebrities who honored Bob Barker through heartfelt social media tributes. Sandler has done a lot in his own career, and where some may have a soft spot for Billy Madison or enjoy his exploration of new genres in more recent projects like Uncut Gems and Hustle, for me, nothing beats his 1996 sports comedy, and Barker is a huge part of that.
For those who didn’t grow up watching Bob Barker on The Price Is Right — patiently walking overexcited contestants through different price-guessing games in hopes of scoring A NEW CAR! — it’s hard to explain the pure shock that I felt the first time I saw him punch Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore right in the face. Let’s relive that beautiful moment before going forward.
With that out of the way, it's time to take a look at how exactly Barker ended up on the golf course with the comedian, and what he said about that iconic scene in the years that followed:
How Adam Sandler Got Bob Barker To Agree To The Role
It’s crazy how a four-minute scene can live in infamy like that, and Adam Sandler certainly struck gold by landing Bob Barker for that role. It turns out The Price Is Right host wasn’t his first choice either. In a March 2023 interview with Collider, Sandler revealed:
We initially wrote it for Ed McMahon. Ed McMahon said he was busy and we, we were, we were like, imagine if Bob Barker did it, he'll never do it. Next thing you know, Bob Barker, whose neighbor was Chuck Norris at the time and Chuck and Bob used to spar, was like, ‘Yeah, if I get to fight, if I get to throw punches, I'm doing it.’
Chuck Norris was his own phenomenon in the ‘90s, so the fact that he and Bob Barker used to spar is actually enough to make one’s brain explode. I also can’t help but wonder what the original script said when the part intended for Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s sidekick on The Tonight Show. (Maybe “Heeeeeere’s Happy!”?) Regardless, the movie gods were smiling down, because it’s hard to imagine this scene playing out more perfectly. Especially when you consider…
The Price Is Right Host Refused To Use A Stunt Double For The Happy Gilmore Fight Scene
With Bob Barker regularly training alongside Chuck Norris and the actual fight being what drew him to the role in the first place, it’s not surprising that the game show host showed up to set ready to throw hands. In his own recollection of accepting the job, he told CBS Mornings in 2013:
Someone from [Adam Sandler’s] office approached me and said that they wanted to do this fight scene in this picture. I said, ‘Well, who wins the fight?’ And they said, ‘You win the fight.’ I said, ‘I’ll do the picture.’ When I checked into the hotel the night before we were going to shoot, the director came in, and he said, ‘Bob, don’t worry about the fight.’ He said, ‘I have a stuntman. He’ll do the fight scene.’ ‘I said, 'Wait a minute, I know how to fight.' I said, 'I want to do the fight scenes. I want to win the fight.'
He did indeed win the fight, much to the unabashed glee of the moviegoers. It was easy for audiences to cheer for Happy Gilmore when he was going up against Shooter McGavin, but there was something abjectly horrifying about seeing Adam Sandler’s character attack the animal-loving septuagenarian. It's like the desecration of a national treasure. That made it all the more satisfying when Bob Barker took Happy out, spitting that “Bitch” right back at him.
It’s not often that you celebrate the star of the movie getting his ass kicked, but Bob Barker pulled it off. He KO’d Happy Gilmore and then went on to brag about it for years. In the same CBS Mornings interview a decade ago, Barker said:
I did [Price Is Right] until 2007, and I didn’t do one show that the audience didn’t want to talk about Happy Gilmore. They’d say, ‘Could you really whip Adam Sandler? Could you beat Adam Sandler up in real life?’ I’d say, ‘Are you kidding? Adam Sandler couldn’t whip Regis Philbin!’
Bob Barker had jokes, and it's actually impressive how well his comedic skills stood up next to Adam Sandler's. Not every celebrity would have been OK with being portrayed like he was in Happy Gilmore. However, it sounds like Barker enjoyed reliving that memory, especially if he was willing to retell it time and time again to his audience over the years.
How Adam Sandler And Co. Paid Tribute After Bob Barker's Death
Bob Barker and Adam Sandler will always be connected through that four-minute scene, and of course the Saturday Night Live alum mentioned it as he paid homage to the game show host, tweeting:
The man. The myth. The best. Such a sweet funny guy to hang out with. Loved talking to him. Loved laughing with him. Loved him kicking the crap out of me. He will be missed by everyone I know! Heartbreaking day. Love to Bob always and his family! Thanks for all you gave us!
If there was any doubt how much mutual adoration there was between the two, and how much that Happy Gilmore role meant to Bob Barker, Rob Schneider recalled in his own commemorative tweet the kind words Barker had for Adam Sandler:
One of the nicest things I ever heard in showbusiness was Bob Barker saying, ‘I moved to Hollywood to be an actor and the only person who ever let me do it was Adam Sandler!’ This scene with them was and will always be absolutely hilarious! God bless you, Bob.
Happy Gilmore holds a special place in many people's hearts, and if you’ve never shouted, “The price is wrong, bitch!” you probably weren’t around in the ‘90s. But even for those who weren’t, the movie is no less funny over 25 years later. After wearing out my VHS copy decades ago, I still laugh when Bob Barker uses Adam Sandler as a punching bag, and upon my daughter’s first viewing, she cackled gloriously through the scene, despite having little-to-no knowledge of who Barker even was.
Bob Barker did a lot of good in his life through his animal activism and was beloved for years on The Price Is Right. But it won’t be forgotten how big of a moment Happy Gilmore was for his legacy.