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

By Billy Crystal

(Holt, $28, 288 pages)

Who is this author?

Oh, c’mon. Do I really have to tell you? You’ve seen him in many popular films, some of which have become blockbusters with dialogue that will be quoted for what seems like forever: “When Harry Met Sally,” “City Slickers,” “The Princess Bride” and “Analyze This.” He starred on TV in “Soap” and “Saturday Night Live.” He’s won six Emmy awards, wrote a Tony-winning play, “700 Sundays,” and a book for kids titled “I Already Know I Love You.” He won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and has been the host  the Academy Awards telecast nine times. And he’s still married to his original wife. Yeah, that guy.

What is this book about?

Crystal has had many fantastic experiences, among them getting to play for one glorious day for his beloved New York Yankees, but he is mortal. And this book, inspired by his facing up to turning 65, is a very funny, very wise riff on aging, written with the huge Baby Boomer population in mind. Besides his hilarious musings on growing older, the book is also an autobiography that recounts Crystal’s remarkably resilient career in showbiz, from its earliest days. There are stories of his relationship with Sophia Loren and his deep friendships with other actors and comedians, as well as such sports idols as Mickey Mantle and Muhammad Ali. Not only a fascinating look at a fascinating career, this book also is a reflection on how the humor industry has changed and how concerns about aging are eternal.

Why you’ll like it:

This is observational humor at its most relatable: anyone approaching their 60s, or who has parents who’ve crossed that milestone, will get it. Crystal has both talent and heart and the ability to write, a terrific combination. His many fans will love this book, and those not so familiar with his long career (there cannot be many, but we will stipulate there must be some out there) can get to know the man by reading it. Crystal may be growing old, but this book proves he still looks….wait for it….mahhhhvelous.

What others are saying:

Publishers Weekly says: “Avoiding the trappings—excess schmaltz, laundry list of famous friends, boozy party log—of so many celebrity memoirs, Crystal delivers a funny and genuinely moving chronicle of his life inside and outside Hollywood. The quips come as fast they do in the best Crystal films and Oscar hostings, making sure the reader knows that there isn’t a ghost writer guiding this one. Now 65, Crystal, the youngest of three brothers, was a comic from the start, soaking up all he could from the TV comedians of the ’50s during his childhood in the New York suburbs. In addition to loving comedy, Crystal grew up loving music (his father owned a popular record store in the city) and, of course, baseball. Both of these passions stayed with him throughout his life and, something most fans could only dream of, Crystal not only met but befriended idols like Mickey Mantle and boxer Muhammad Ali. His successes are balanced with opportunities that didn’t pan out, or movies that fizzled at the box office: a last-minute cancellation of a semi-permanent gig with the then-fledgling Saturday Night Live is outshone by the opportunity to perform on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. In addition to providing the inside scoop on some of his most iconic roles, from Harry to Princess, Crystal manages the extremely difficult feat of making his prose as vibrant and funny as his stand-up. He&’ll always be a hard act to follow.”

From Booklist’s starred review: “If you’ve been paying attention for the last few decades, you’re probably familiar with the career of Billy Crystal: his stand-up roots, his controversial role on the sitcom Soap, his run on Saturday Night Live, his Oscar-hosting turn, his movies . . . Why, you might be wondering, do I need to read the book when I already know the guy? Here’s one reason: the book is massively laugh-out-loud funny. . .  Crystal, who turned 65 in March 2013, reflects on his life and career and the joys of aging, and the book has a lot of surprises, ranging from the story of how he created the character of Fernando (the “You look mahvelous” guy) to his brief stint as a player with the New York Yankees. Hollywood memoirs don’t come much more entertaining than this one, and the book reinforces one thing we’ve always known about Crystal: he’s a genuinely funny, genuinely nice guy. “

Says Kirkus Reviews: “A humorous take on mortality by famed comedian and actor Crystal . . .  In his latest book, the always-affable author proves yet again his ability to translate his comedic chops from the screen to the page. On the morning of his 65th birthday, Crystal peered into the mirror to find he was no longer the “hip, cool baby boomer” he thought he was, but now resembled “a Diane Arbus photograph.” Horrified by the transformation, Crystal dedicates the rest of the book to finding his old self in his new saggy skin–a self-deprecating shtick that proves as endearing as it is silly. Melding the personal with the professional, the author recounts his rise from unknown comic to acclaimed entertainer, a journey that has included run-ins with everyone from Mickey Mantle to Muhammad Ali. Yet through it all, Crystal makes clear that his brushes with greatness–and, in fact, his own greatness–were often the result of luck, timing and hard work in equal proportions. Though he revels in his self-portrayal as a key-losing, liver-spotted old man, in truth, Crystal’s wit and writing remain sharp, as do his reflections on the more disappointing moments of his career. . . . By book’s end, it’s evident that Crystal himself has grown old, but rather than make a secret of his age, he turns it into a punch line. . . . A charming, warm, welcome read for Crystal’s legions of fans.”

When is it available?

The laughs await you at the Downtown Hartford Public Library and its Blue Hills and Goodwin branches.

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