Trouble sleeping? You'll like this hilarious insight into the stresses, worries and insomnia of Billy Crystal from his memoir STILL FOOLIN' 'EM.
One thing is constant for me. Every night I go to sleep at eleven. I wake up refreshed, ready to go, full of energy, look at the clock, and it’s one- ten A.M.
Hi, I’m Billy and I’m an insomniac. Right now, I’ve been up since 1948. It actually started back when I was born: First seven days, perfect. I was doing great, sleeping in, clocking twenty hours a night. Then day 8, they woke me up and somebody with a black hat and a beard cut off the tip of my penis. I’ve been up ever since.
Insomnia, from the Greek word meaning "I can’t fucking sleep!” Ah, sleep . . . to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub. I tried rubbing it. Nothing. My penis looked at me and said, “Are you trying to start a fire?” So now I’m awake and I feel like a fool. Guys, at our age, masturbating is the worst type of high school reunion. You’re with your first love, who looks older and smaller, there’s no real excitement, and ultimately you’re sorry you came.
“Did you sleep well, did you sleep?” I tell people I sleep like a baby: I’m up every two hours. And it’s so lonely when you can’t sleep and your spouse can. Sometimes when I wake up, I fake nightmares, just so I have someone to talk to.
“Don’t – no, no, put the gun down, no!”
“Honey, you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay, it was just a bad dream. You want to play cards?”
I feel bad about waking Janice up, but it’s better than watching her sleep in that middle- aged way with the occasional snore. Men hate when women snore. It’s a double standard: we men fart, cough up things and spit them in the street, we pick our noses while we drive and, if we’re alone, wipe it on the bottom part of the seat, we pee in the shower and on the golf course. Come on, guys, admit it: we all pee in the shower because it feels so good, but if a woman snores, we’re ready to get a lawyer. We’re Vikings at the social tea of life.
So I’ve tried everything to fall asleep. I tried the glass of red wine before bed for a few months. I still couldn’t sleep, and I ended up in Betty Ford. Then I got one of those sound effects machines that create the experience of being on the beach. My model is called Coney Island. It has waves, weeping Mets fans, and gunfire. They say it works because the sound of rushing water makes you want to go to sleep. It made me want to pee. Now I have another problem.
Getting up quietly in the middle of the night is a challenge. I’m groggy and walk to the john with all the grace of Buzz Aldrin doing the tango on DANCING WITH THE STARS. Once I get to the bathroom, I don’t want to stand up and pee because God hasn’t messed with my stream today and the noise will wake everybody up as I yell, “That’s what I’m talking about!” So I decide to sit down, and I fall in because some schmuck (who would be me) forgot to put the seat down.
You know why we can’t sleep? It’s because we think. The brain doesn’t shut off; there’s a little factory going all night. We never think about good things, only the bad things we’ve done. The regrets. When you can’t sleep, every night is Yom Kippur. “Why did I say that to that schmuck? Okay, he was a schmuck, but why did I say that? After all, he is the pope.”
So I try to calm down by eating. They say turkey makes you drowsy because it has tryptophan. If it works so well, how come you never see a turkey nod off? I have a turkey sandwich and a warm glass of milk – and once you have milk, you gotta have a cookie. Now I still can’t sleep and my cholesterol is at 800.
I’m so upset. I try to watch some TV. That late at night, it’s all commercials aimed at my age group. First one I see is for a sleeping aid called Rozerem. That’s the one where they say “your dreams miss you” and they show Abe Lincoln talking to a beaver.
They said it’s the first sleep aid with no potential for dependence. Really? If I’m taking a drug that makes me dream about Lincoln talking to a beaver, I’m taking that five times a day.
Next comes the onslaught. Every ad is for beer, big fat hamburgers, Rogaine, and Viagra. They think we’re all one fat bald guy who can’t get it up.
But at least the new impotency ads are aimed at women. Now they show a really hot woman in her forties; she has that happy, contented look we’ve all forgotten, like she’s just made love for hours. And then the guy comes into the bedroom, the guy who had the problem. He looks like a middle-aged model (or Mitt Romney), he’s got perfect hair, a great smile, a sweater tied around his neck, and at the end of the ad he and the wife are on a little boat that has the biggest mast you’ve ever seen in your life. I’m not stupid; I get it.
Then there’s that Cialis ad where they say you take it and it lasts for thirty-six hours. You can have sex anytime in that thirty-six-hour window. That’s way too much pressure for me. We’re a fast- paced society: we want things now, we have instant Internet, instant messages, we want instant sex, not thirty- six-hour Cialis. Thirty-six hours is more than my whole history of sex. Cialis is a bad pill for us Jews. “Irving, take this pill, it’s good for thirty-six hours.” He says, “That’s over the whole year, right? Can I redeem hours if I don’t use them? Can I trade them in for that set of dishes?”
But at least the Cialis ads are done well. The original Viagra ads were terrible. They were all athletes, prominent people revealing that they suffer from ED. The idea is if it can happen to them, it can happen to anybody. Even Mike Ditka and Bob Dole did impotence commercials. I applaud them for admitting this personal problem, but honestly, the thought of them with erections is enough to make me impotent.
Whatever the affliction, they make the commercials look so beautiful. These people have real problems and in thirty seconds it’s all solved, there are butterflies and bike rides and people walking their puppies, whatever they have is cured, their prostates are shrinking, their bones aren’t brittle, their hairlines are back, and I’m filled with hope. Then right at the end of the commercial that voice comes on and quickly says . . .
“May cause lack of appetite, dizziness, nervousness, psychotic episodes, blurred vision, stuttering, skipping and jumping, Tourette’s syndrome, barking at the moon, bile backup, speaking in tongues, anal leakage, diarrhoea, and impotence.” And I’m thinking, Okay, who cares? I have to get some sleep!
I get sick of all the commercials, so I change the channel. Now I’m watching high- speed car chases at three A.M. That’ll put you right out. Might as well have a double espresso. In Los Angeles, car chases do bigger ratings than CSI. They’re the original reality TV. I’m watching a car going the wrong way on the freeway, then it’s going ninety through a school-zone, it hits a fence, the suspect is out of the car now, running, the TV camera is in the chopper overhead as the perp, now in a dramatic spotlight, runs through backyards and jumps fences. Personally, I think it’s the best work Lindsay Lohan has ever done.
So I go back to bed. I toss and turn and turn and toss and just can’t get comfortable. Then finally I find the right position, the pillow is nice and cool, and I fall asleep. Five minutes later, the alarm goes off: time to start the day.
Now I get up and I’m cranky. I’m Jeffrey Dahmer and there’s nothing in the fridge. I’m overtired. Overtired. The excuse every mother gives for a nasty kid. “Why did he light the garage on fire?” “He’s . . . overtired.” “Why did he do that, Mrs. Hitler?” “He vas overtired, just a little cranky, he didn’t sleep vell in the 1920s.”
I’m up all night because I worry; I worry about everything. Like the fact that I’m not fucking asleep.
- I worry about the axis of evil: Syria, North Korea, and Wall Street CEOs.
- I worry that if I’m ever arrested and go to prison, I’ll like anal rape.
- I worry that one day my kids will look down at me and say to each other, “I changed him last time, it’s your turn.”
- I worry that Scientologists may be right.
- I worry that I’m writing this chapter via texting while driv–
- I worry that the paramedics will not speak English and won’t be able to read the words PLEASE RESUSCITATE I have tattooed on my chest.
- I worry that I am not worried about my grandkids being stuck with the national debt.
- I worry that playing Angry Birds for thirty hours a week may not qualify as aerobics.
- I worry that I’ll die while too many of the people I hate are still alive.
But the one thing I don’t worry about is dying in my sleep. Because I never sleep! When the angel of death comes to my bedside and puts his hand out for me, I’m going to look him right in the eye and say, “Get the fuck out of here.” Then Janice will tell him, “Don’t listen to Billy – he’s overtired, he’s a little cranky.”