More than just an autobiography, Billy Crystal’s new book is part memoir, part stand-up comedy, part revelation and part sentimental philosophy.
A comic, actor, author, producer, director and general all-around A-List Nice Guy, Crystal has produced a tome that is laced with great humor and sympathetic insight.
It’s a quick read and Crystal keeps his anecdotes light, tight and bright, dipping only occasionally into the kind of bathos that would trap a writer of less talent. That he dips more than a toe into the schmaltzy kind of sentimentality that sometimes surfaces is forgivable and such self-indulgence is excusable when the majority of the book is so immensely readable and entertaining.
This reviewer concurs with the dust jacket blurb that “Still Foolin’ ‘Em” is “laugh-out-loud funny” and the book had exactly that effect on yours truly, who is normally not brought to hysterics even by the most talented writers. Crystal’s wit, had he been born a generation or so earlier, would have propelled him to stardom via the Borscht Belt circuit that gave the world such talents as Buddy Hackett, Milton Berle and Jerry Lewis.
A product of the Baby Boomer generation, Crystal came of age first on the Comedy Club Circuit and then on Television.
As it is, the book is replete with stories about iconic heavyweight champion Mohammed Ali, Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, broadcaster Bob Costas, New York Yankees luminary Mickey Mantle, fellow comic Robin Williams and many more.
As a person of faith, the only disappointment I found was Crystal’s apparent lack of any formal faith at all. Raised in the Jewish tradition (as opposed to the faith,) he questions many things in Life that a firmly-rooted faith in God would likely answer, or at the very least, mitigate to some degree. That he apparently lacks that faith, in spite of the success and celebrity with which he has been blessed, is the only sad facet this reviewer can find in what is otherwise an eminently recommendable book.
The anecdotes surrounding Jack Palance, Sophia Loren, Johnny Carson, Mohammed Ali and Mickey Mantle are enough to justify reading this book all by themselves. It’s Crystal’s unique intuitive wit that puts this effort over the top.
Ideal as an addition to any library and a predictably popular item as the holiday gift-giving season draws near, “Still Foolen’ ‘Em” will surely be “Still Entertainin’ ‘Em” for the foreseeable future.
Recommended (four-and-a-half out of five possible stars.)