Actor and comedian Billy Crystal has forged a highly successful career by portraying other people in movies like When Harry Met Sally
and City Slickers
. But in 700 Sundays
, a memoir based on his one-man Broadway play of the same name, Crystal tells his own story, dissecting an often complex relationship with his father and how that relationship resonated in other aspects of his life. His father, Jack Crystal was an influential jazz concert promoter and operated an influential jazz record label, affording his son an opportunity to tell stories of being taken to his first movie by Billie Holliday and seeing his grandmother suggest that Louis Armstrong simply "try coughing it up." But Jack died when his son was fifteen years old, soon after a forever-unresolved argument between the two, leaving Billy to cope with crushing grief while simultaneously and perhaps ironically trying to launch a career in comedy. This lends 700 Sundays
much needed gravity in a volume that is packed with zingy one-liners and whimsical observations that serve to illustrate the comedy career Crystal forged, while also providing some decent laughs. Interestingly, there is very little reference to the better known accomplishments of Crystals Hollywood career as the author chooses to focus instead on the seemingly mundane but highly entertaining aspects of his Long Island roots. Though 700 Sundays
(the name comes from Crystals estimation of how many Sundays he got to spend with his father) is packaged here in book form, it reads like a piece of theater and, more specifically, like a selection of memories about a father, lovingly and touchingly re-told by his loving son. --John Moe
From Publishers Weekly
Reading the book version of comedian Crystal's Broadway solo show can be initially off-putting. The jokes he uses to warm up his audience (on why Jews eat Chinese food on Sunday nights, his complaints about his circumcision, the nasal pronunciation of Jewish names, etc.) are distinctly unfunny on the page. But once Crystal is finished with shtick and on to the story of his marvelous Long Island family, readers will be glad they can savor it at their own pace. There's the story of Crystal's uncle Milt Gabler, who started the Commodore music label and recorded Billie Holiday singing "Strange Fruit" when no one else would. Then there's the Sunday afternoon when Holiday takes young Crystal to see his first movie at what later became the Fillmore East. There's even Louis Armstrong at the Crystal family seder, with Crystal's grandma telling the gravelly-voiced singer, "Louis, have you tried just coughing it up?" At the heart of these tales is Crystal's father, the man who bought his little boy a tape recorder when he announced he wanted to be a comedian and didn't scold when he recycled off-color borscht belt routines for family gatherings. Crystal's dad worked two jobs and died young, so they had maybe 700 Sundays together—but how dear they were. Photos.
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