Billy Crystal turned comedy into reminiscence, did it well

By Julia Pearl-Schwartz

In addition to eating turkey, visiting family and celebrating Hanukah over Thanksgiving break, my family and I went to see Billy Crystal’s performance “700 Sundays” on Broadway.

My aunt and uncle, with whom we stayed on Long Island, bought tickets to see Crystal months ago.  But, luckily for my family, my mom was able to buy tickets just the night before for a reasonable price.

Crystal, known for his timeless comedy, was, indeed, hilarious.  But Crystal proved that he can do more than just crack meaningless jokes—I was stunned to see he had a serious side as well.

The entire show involved Crystal recalling memories from childhood, and began as I expected with a few brazen jokes. But afterwards, Crystal explained that his father died of a heart attack when he was only 15.  To further exacerbate his loss, the last words he said to his father were “shut up.”

I was shocked that such a fantastic comedian had such a traumatic childhood.  I had expected a show over-saturated with jokes, and was instead greeted by serious ideas with jokes woven in.

Crystal’s act was actually quite inspiring.  He proved not only that those who experience tragedy can be successful, but also that celebrities are real, emotional human beings, too.  He also put a positive spin on his disheartening experiences.

One of my favorite parts about the show was my ability to connect with his stories from childhood.  He grew up in a very Jewish household, and so did I.

He joked, for example, that his family spoke Yiddish—a language that he called “a combination of German and phlegm.”  While my family always speaks English, when my relatives are all together, Yiddish expressions always find a way into the conversation.

On a more serious note, he talked about his father’s funeral, remembering how he and his brothers shoveled dirt to bury their father (a Jewish tradition). I had the same experience when burying my grandmother a year ago.  Listening to his memory made mine more vivid—I had unconsciously blocked that image from my mind and was glad that it resurfaced.  It was difficult to hear, but I was grateful for the reminder.

Crystal’s performance was relatable, hilarious and emotional, all wrapped into one show.  It was a lot to process, to say the least, but the experience was one I will cherish.