Still Foolin’ ’Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Go­ing, and Where The Hell Are My Keys?

Billy Crys­tal. Henry Holt and Co.

NZ Today - - ON BOOKS -

Billy Crys­tal is a won­der­ful sto­ry­teller – that’s what’s al­ways served his com­edy best, that’s how he’s been best at serv­ing it; de­liv­er­ing. And that’s what works best for the parts of this mem­oir (the ma­jor­ity) where he hur­tles through his up­bring­ing and ca­reer high­lights, care­ful not to trace around the same ma­te­rial from his fab­u­lous 700 Sun­days and ea­ger to keep the pace brisk, to not bog the reader down with any­thing too heavy, too overtly sen­ti­men­tal.

But Crys­tal can do heart­break, he opens up, of­fers pathos, talks of death and griev­ing and trou­bles.

The weak mo­ments – and this is nit-pick­ing, re­ally – are in the some­times al­most-cringe mo­ments of what feels like tri­alled/re­jected stand-up bits about turn­ing 65. He even has the odd killer line there too though, want­ing to not die be­cause he can’t stand the thought of not out­liv­ing those he hates, and re­al­ity-check­ing Amer­i­cans: “Have you been to Dis­ney­land lately? It’s not a small world af­ter all. It’s a big, fat, sweaty-ass-crack world”.

It al­most feels like two dif­fer­ent book ideas are hav­ing a slight tus­sle, the silly thoughts on turn­ing 65 and the wise re­flec­tions on an in­ter­est­ing life. Oh well, it works, for the most part.

Crys­tal started by sch­lep­ping out on the trav­el­ling com­edy cir­cuit, mak­ing ends meet as he opened for big­ger names and drove 500 mile round trips to do his half-hour set.

Af­ter a few lucky breaks he found his way, the mo­men­tum just con­tin­ued to build, he was a ta­lented MC and char­ac­ter player, he had a part on the TV show Soap, his fa­mous Muham­mad Ali im­per­son­ation (some­times al­ter­nated with his Howard Cosell) had him on roast pan­els and Ali tributes and from there it was to SNL for a stint, to more writ­ing and host­ing gigs and Hol­ly­wood’s log­i­cal tread­mill dropped him off at the movies.

He’s had some duds but the big hits were very big and in this book he tells great sto­ries about the mak­ing of break­through come­dies like When Harry Met Sally and City Slick­ers. Meg Ryan took her or­gasm di­rec­tion from Rob Reiner per­form­ing his own forged ex­cite­ment to cast and crew; Charles Bron­son turned down City Slick­ers, in­cred­u­lous that his char­ac­ter was set to peg it on page 65. Jack Palance takes the gig and wins an Os­car.

Crys­tal’s big­gest Os­car suc­cess has been in host­ing the show – a likely thank­less task, an all-eyes-on-him gig that he’s al­ways man­aged with some aplomb and great com­edy writ­ing. It’s a great read, heart-warm­ing, wise, re­flec­tive. Lovely. Si­mon Sweet­man

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