Most successful actors in the “Chanukah Song” updates
Monday marks 24 years since Adam Sandler debuted his “Chanukah Song” amidst his final season on Saturday Night Live.
Did that represent a career peak he has yet to duplicate? That is up for debate, but it is worth noting he has since revised the tune three times.
The song’s crux, inspired by Sandler’s sense of isolation as a Jewish child at Christmastime, has always been listing Hannukah-celebrating household names. The original lyrics included 13 actors — or their signature character — of full or partial Jewish lineage.
Since then, more of the same have been named in a 2002 SNL guest spot or 1999 and 2015 concerts. Those three rosters could contribute to an all-star team, which would make a nice touch for a fifth “Chanukah Song.”
That hypothetical reprise could honor its origins by returning every name in the 1994 version plus the most accomplished actors from the three updates. (And maybe add some as-yet glaring omissions, such as Lewis Black, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Mila Kunis.)
The following list is dedicated to the top 10 from the three revised versions. Notable names falling short include Jack Black, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe. In addition, those with multiple outstanding allegations of unseemly behavior are ineligible for this party.
All biographical, filmography and award information are according to the Internet Movie Database.
Honorable mention: Harvey Keitel
The half-century Hollywood veteran has yet to cultivate any major awards. But from 1992 to 1995, he garnered four head-turning nominations for supporting parts in as many years.
To start, Keitel attained his lone Oscar and Golden Globe nods for playing Mickey Cohen in Bugsy. Three years later, he was one of four Pulp Fiction cast members considered for an American Comedy Award.
To cap his hot streak, his part in From Dusk Till Dawn yielded consideration for a Saturn.
10. Lisa Kudrow
One of two Friends cast members cited in the third “Chanukah Song” (opposite David Schwimmer), Kudrow is the more accomplished. As Phoebe, she won a 1998 Emmy for outstanding supporting actress and was nominated for five others plus a Golden Globe.
In 2000, the ACAs crowned her the funniest supporting female performer in a TV series. And not long after Friends folded, she starred and succeeded with an aptly titled sitcom, The Comeback. As Valerie, she received two more Emmy nominations in as many seasons.
9. Winona Ryder
Before she turned 20, Ryder was up for her first Golden Globe via Mermaids. Three years later, she won on her second bid and was also up for an Oscar and BAFTA for playing May Welland in The Age of Innocence.
Although a 23-year drought ensued at the Golden Globes, Ryder reappeared on the Oscar ballot for Little Women in 1995. That would be her first major award nomination for a leading role. Her second came from the small screen at the 2017 Golden Globes for the first season of Stanger Things.
That sci-fi/horror series also yielded her fourth career Saturn nod and second individual crack at a Screen Actors Guild award.
8. Ben Stiller
Lately, Stiller has transferred his focus to behind-the-camera work, which has been more fruitful for him. In 1993, he won his first (and still only) Emmy as a writer on his titular variety show.
Acting-wise, Stiller nearly claimed another Emmy for his guest spot on Extras in 2005. That nod followed a pair of ACA nominations, including a win for Meet the Parents. It preceded his first Saturn nomination for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in 2014.
But superseding the somewhat surprising dearth of hardware, Stiller got delayed gratification from the BAFTAs in 2011. At the Los Angeles-based edition of the British award show, he took home a token of recognition for excellence in comedy.
7. Debra Messing
Time will tell whether the Will & Grace reboot sustains the first run’s hardware magnet. For Messing as an individual cast member, the bar is already brushing the ceiling.
As Grace Adler, Messing has drawn nominations for six Golden Globes and five Emmys. She came out on top at the latter in 2003.
In between the Will & Grace eras, Messing mustered another Emmy nod plus two returns to the Golden Globe ballot. Given that success from The Starter Wife in the late 2000s, it was a slight head-scratcher when TV Guide nominated her for 2012’s “favorite comeback.” Was she ever really gone?
6. Jennifer Connelly
Connelly’s spread of major nominations and win ratio boast more quality than quantity. In 2002, she scored an Oscar/Golden Globe/BAFTA hat trick as a supporting actress in A Beautiful Mind.
Those are her only nominations for any of those awards to date. But she has also twice been up for a Saturn, one via 1991’s The Rocketeer and another 2003’s Hulk.
5. Gwyneth Paltrow
As with Connelly, Paltrow has drawn sparse consideration for mainstream hardware, but tends to win when she is up. Her only Emmy nomination for acting came in 2011 for a guest spot on Glee. She would take home the prize, just as she did in 1999 for her sole Oscar nomination to date.
For that, she can thank her part in Shakespeare in Love, which also made her 1-for-1 at the Golden Globes. The latter guild later nominated, but did not award, Paltrow for another lead female role in 2005’s Proof.
And like Connelly, she has two Saturn nominations on her resume as well.
4. Carrie Fisher
Before her untimely passing two years ago, Fisher turned in memorable guest spots on 30 Rock and Catastrophe. Both of those performances garnered an Emmy nomination.
Not to mention, her part as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series fetched four nods for Saturns. While she did not prevail in any of those votes, she did get the Saturns’ 1990 President’s Award. That same year, her versatility radiated, as she was nominated for an ACA for her supporting role in When Harry Met Sally.
3. Jake Gyllenhaal
Paltrow’s costar in Proof, Gyllenhaal had a bigger breakthrough in 2005. At age 25 going on 26, he garnered an Oscar nomination and a BAFTA victory for Brokeback Mountain.
Although he has yet to add any major hardware, he was up for more BAFTAs in 2015 and 2017. In addition, his leading male roles in Love & Other Drugs and Nightcrawlers yielded Golden Globe consideration.
2. Scarlett Johansson
Surprisingly, given all of her prominent roles since, Johansson last received a Golden Globe nomination in 2006. With that said, her bid that year was the fourth of its kind in three years.
Johansson was first on the Golden Globe ballot in 2004 for Lost In Translation, which also won her a BAFTA. That made two nominations by the British panel, the other coming for Girl with a Pearl Earring.
In this decade, she has amassed four Saturn nominations, including a victory for voicing the machine in 2013’s Her. That same part of Samantha fetched the 2014 BTVA’s title of best female lead vocal in a feature film.
1. Natalie Portman
The last mention in the third “Chanukah Song,” Portman was then coming off her second performance as Queen Amidala in the Star Wars prequels. By 2006, all three of those films earned her consideration for Saturns.
Portman would subsequently triumph at the sci-fi/fantasy/horror specialist panel as 2007’s best actress in V for Vendetta. Brothers earned her another nomination one year before Black Swan got her another trophy.
That 2010 film would also parlay Portman to her first Oscar victory out of two nominations. In 2017, the Academy put her on the ballot a third time for her title role in Jackie. Those two films, along with Closer, yielded identical results at the BAFTAs.
In addition, Closer fetched Portman her first of two Golden Globe victories out of four candidacies so far.