Friday Book Club: Billy Crystal Saves the World

SWT-Book-ClubsAs you know, we’re reading 700 Sundays this month, by Billy Crystal.  Billy Crystal seems like a decent human being who really likes to help people out.  One of the ways he does that is through his involvement with the USA non-profit organization Comic Relief.

Comic Relief was founded in 1986 by Bob Zmuda.  It featured a televised fundraiser on HBO with all the proceeds going to help the homeless.  This broadcast happened with new entertainers and skits every year from 1986 – 1998.  In 2006 Comic Relief did a benefit for survivors of Hurricane Katrina and in 2007 they did a benefit to save animal habitats.   Billy Crystal, Robin Willams, and Whoopi Goldberg have hosted all the shows to date.

Thanks to the efforts of Billy Crystal and others, Comic Relief USA has raised over 2.5 million dollars for charity.  Here’s a clip of Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, and Robin Williams introducing the 1994 Comic Relief broadcast:

If you are in the Sacramento area, join us at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento at 2PM on March 23rd to talk about 700 Sundays!

Friday Book Club: The Best of Billy Crystal

SWT-Book-ClubsThis month we’re reading 700 Sundays, by Billy Crystal.  In celebration, here’s a few memorable moments from Crystal’s career!

Fernando’s Hideaway, 1985

Billy Crystal was a regular in Saturday Night Live in the 1980’s.  His most famous characters was that of Fernando, who’s catch phrase was “You look mah-va-lous!”  Here’s Crystal With Hulk Hogan and Mr. T at the Hideaway.  “Do you work out?”  Click in the link to get to the video.

The Princess Bride, 1987

One of the best scenes from one of the best movies of all time – here’s Billy Crystal and Carol Kane as Miracle Max and his witch, Valerie!

Monster’s Inc, 2001

Crystal was offered the role of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story and turned it down – a decision he deeply regretted.  Luckily, that meant he could voice Mike Wazoski in Monster’s Inc.  Here’s some Mike highlights.

The Oscars With Bob Hope, 2011

Crystal has hosted the Oscars nine times to date.   The only person who has hosted the Oscars more often was Bob Hope, who hosted the Oscars 18 times.  In this famous Oscar vignette, Bob Hope and Billy Crystal appear together.

Friday Book Club: 700 Sundays

SWT-Book-ClubsThis month we’re finishing off our humor writing series with a thoughtful, bittersweet memoir by Billy Crystal, 700 Sundays.  If you are in the Sacramento area, come to our in-person book club at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, on March 23rd at 2PM.  There’s no book club in April, but we’ll be back with a three month series about animals in May!

700 Sundays, a book based on Crystal’s one-man, Tony award winning play, is about Billy Crystal’s life from early childhood through college.  The main focus of the book is Crystal’s relationship with his parents.  His father worked six days a week, but spent Sundays with his family.  Crystal’s father died of a heart attack when Crystal was only fifteen.  He later calculated that he had 700 Sundays with his father.

Crystal talks with great appreciation and affection about how his father exposed him to some of the most prominent jazz musicians of the day, and encouraged Crystal’s love of baseball and, of course, comedy.  He also admires his mother, who, after a lifetime of being a homemaker, found a job and supported the family after his father’s death.

The other two books in our humor series (Thank You, Jeeves and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) took a madcap approach to humor, with lots of physical humor and farce and satire.  Crystal’s humor in 700 Sundays is more gentle and reflective.  His humor is a force for family bonding and for healing.  Here’s my favorite passage, from the week after Crystal’s father’s death:

And then one day, I heard laughter.  Big laughs.  Everybody was having a great time.  I had to come out to see who was working my room.  And it was my crazy Uncle Berns.  Performing for the family.  He was making everybody laugh, even my mother was smiling.  He was carrying on, making everybody else feel a little bit better, and taking some of the pain out of his heart as well.  Berns was making people forget just for a few moment why they were there, and it was OK.  He had just lost his brother, the person he was closest to in the world.  And the message to me was profound, because it meant that even in worst worst pain it’s still OK to laugh.


Friday Book Club: Announcing Our Read For March!

SWT-Book-ClubsThe last book in our three-month series on Humor Writing is 700 Sundays, by Billy Crystal.  This a poignant autobiography about Billy Crystal’s early years with his family.  He talks about the roles music, baseball, and performing comedy had in his family, and he talks about his relationship with his father, who died young of a heart attack.  700 Sundays is based on the one man play Billy Crystal wrote and performed on Broadway.  It won a Tony in 2005 for “Special Theatrical Event”.  If you are in the Sacramento area, come visit us on 2/23/14 at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, CA, at 2PM for an in-person discussion of this sometimes heart-breaking and often very, very funny book!


In honor of the occasion, here’s a clip of Billy Crystal from an earlier time in his career, as the marvelous Fernando in Saturday Night Live!

Friday Book Club: Prepare to be Amused

SWT-Book-ClubsFriday Book Club is going on a bit of a vacation, but we will be back in January with a three-month series that features humor writing.  If the last series, Gothic Literature, made you mopey, then January should perk you right up.

Our January book will be:  Thank You, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse.

This classic British comedy is the first full-length Jeeves novel, and what a joy it is, as the unflappable butler, Jeeves, has not one but two upper-class idiots to take care of.  Thank You, Jeeves was published in 1934.  I’m still waiting for the final Jeeves installment, which I’m sure will come any day now:  Jeeves, Put Down that Uzi!

Cover of Thank You, Jeeves

The February Book Will Be:  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

I can’t imagine humor, or science fiction, or…well, anything, without this delightful book.  The Guide has been a radio show, a TV show, and audiobook, a hollywood film, a stage play, and of course a trilogy consisting of five books (not a typo).  Follow the insane adventures of Arthur Dent, Earthman, as he travels though space with his friend Ford Prefect, fellow earthling Trillian, the two-headed party boy and President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, and the eternally depressed robot Marvin (“Life.  Don’t talk to me about Life”).

Cover - Hitchhikers Guide

And for the Grand Finale:  700 Sundays, by Billy Crystal

700 Sundays is a change of pace, from wacky madcap British comedy to bittersweet autobiography from one of America’s most beloved comics.  In this book, Billy Crystal talks about the family and friends who supported and inspired him.

Cover of 700 Sundays

So, start reading now, and join us back here for Friday Book club, starting January 3rd!