If you don’t know what you are getting into with this book, you might be disappointed. Yes, Billy Crystal is a comedian. Yes, the book originated when he started writing new stand-up bits. However, as he was writing (write what you know!), Billy realized he had a lot to say about getting older. And while much of it could easily translate into standup, not all of it did. His standup ideas were slowly turning into essays on aging. As this realization dawned on him, Billy Crystal realized he had a memoir on his hands.
I listened to the audiobook version of this, as I tend to do with comedian-written books. The interesting thing about this audiobook is that the content Billy Crystal originally thought of as fodder for his stand-up was still executed in that fashion. He recorded some of the essays in front of a live audience. Now, since I didn’t have the words in front of me, I wasn’t able to ID how much was ad-libed. I don’t imagine much was– but it certainly felt that way sometimes. Billy Crystal is certainly an entertainer first and foremost. Listening to the audience laugh just made me laugh more.
Think of renovating a house like operating the federal government. You start with a budget and the revenue to finance it. Then the special interests keep adding items to the list; you have to end the war between the interior decorator and the electrician, so you pump in more money to buy peace; and by the time you’re done, you’re $16 trillion in debt and having to borrow money from the Chinese.
That said, it was the content not performed for an audience I really treasured. Billy led an interesting life. He met a lot of people who went off to become famous, or who were already famous themselves. At first, this felt like name-dropping. However, as the story progressed, I realized these people were recurring characters in Billy Crystal’s life.
Crystal breaks the book up by the decades of his life, interspersed with his essays on topics around aging. As someone who is about to start a family, and had little interaction with their grandparents talking about life, I found a lot of the comments on aging really insightful. Most of these things I had never thought about, and I think they helped give me a broader view of the world and of aging people. I, sadly, have VERY few aged people in my life. Now I feel I can connect better with them and understand some of the things they are going through. (Not that 65 is aged! It’s all perspective).
Do something special on your birthday. Whatever you do, celebrate the fact that you’re here, and that people love you and you love them. We only do this once.
I enjoyed re-living the parts of Billy Crystal’s life I grew up with. When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, The Princess Bride, the Oscars, and his time playing for the Yankees. I also loved learning what came before. I find that the journeys of those who have achieved a firm public eye are often not what you expect them to be. A lot of Billy Crystal’s fame comes from knowing the right people and being in the right place at the right time– but, there is a lot of talent there. If he didn’t have an impression of Mohamed Ali he might have never gotten anywhere.
In the end, this was refreshing. The story of Billy Crystal’s life is centered around his family, with asides involving acting and comedy. He has a passion for baseball I’ll never understand, but that just makes him more interesting to me. I laughed. I cried. I appreciated this book quite a bit, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in Billy Crystal as a man.