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Billy Crystal (1947-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights

Born 1947, in Long Island, NY; Education: New York University, B.F.A. (television and film direction), 1970; also attended Marshall University and Nassau Community College. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Playing softball and tennis, cooking Japanese food, collecting New York Yankees memorabilia and miniature furniture, gardening, attending baseball and basketball games.


Office—Rollins, Joffe, Morra & Brezner, 5555 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038. Agent—William Morris Agency, One William Morris Place, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.


Comedian, actor, producer, director, and writer. Member of improvisational comedy troupe variously called We the People, Comedy Jam, and Three's Company, 1971-75; house manager of stage production You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, New York, NY, 1971; stand-up comedian, 1975—; performer at clubs, including the Bitter End, Catch a Rising Star, Playboy Club, and Comedy Store; opening act for Sammy Davis, Jr., at Lake Tahoe, NV; host of radio call-in program broadcast from Marshall University; worked with Alumni Theatre Group at Nassau Community College; worked as a substitute teacher at Long Beach Junior High School, Long Island, NY. Founder, Jennilind Productions and Face Productions.

Actor in films, including Rabbit Test, Avco-Embassy, 1978; (voiceover) Animalympics (animated), Barber Rose International Films, 1979; This Is Spinal Tap, Embassy Pictures, 1984; Running Scared, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)/United Artists (UA), 1986; Goodnight Moon, 1987; The Princess Bride, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1987; Throw Momma from the Train, Orion, 1987; Memories of Me, MGM/UA, 1988; When Harry Met Sally …, Columbia, 1989; (and executive producer) City Slickers, Columbia, 1991; (and producer and director) Mr. Saturday Night, Columbia, 1992; (and producer) City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold, Columbia, 1994; (and producer and director) Forget Paris, Columbia, 1995; Hamlet, Columbia, 1996; De-constructing Harry, Fine Line, 1997; Fathers' Day, Warner Bros., 1997; (and producer) My Giant, Columbia, 1998; (and executive producer) Analyze This, Warner Bros., 1999; Get Bruce (documentary), Mira-max, 1999; America's Sweethearts, Columbia, 2001; (voice) Monsters, Inc., 2001; and (and executive producer) Analyze That, 2002. Producer of films, including Billy Crystal (with Alan King and Michael Hertzberg) Memories of Me, MGM/UA, 1988; and (executive producer) My Uncle Berns, 2004. Actor in television series, including Soap, ABC, 1977-81; The Billy Crystal Comedy Hour, NBC, 1982; Saturday Night Live, NBC, 1984-85; and (voice) Baseball (documentary), PBS, 1994. Appeared in television films, including SST—Death Flight, ABC, 1977; Human Feelings, NBC, 1978; Breaking up Is Hard to Do, ABC, 1979; and Enola Gay: The Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb, NBC, 1980. Actor in television series episodes, including All in the Family, CBS, 1976; Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell, ABC, 1976; The Love Boat, ABC, 1978; "Make-Up," Darkroom, ABC, 1981; "The Three Little Pigs," Faerie Tale Theatre, Showtime, 1984; "Talk Show," Larry Sanders Show, HBO, 1992; "My New Neighbors," Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories, Showtime, 1992; Full Wax, BBC, 1993; "Leapin' Lizards," Frasier, NBC, 1995; Real Sports, HBO, 1995; Muppets Tonight!, ABC, 1996; "The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion," Friends, NBC, 1997, Ruby, 1997, and The Bernie Mac Show, 2002. Appeared in television specials, including Battle of the Network Stars, ABC, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1979; The Thirty-six Most Beautiful Girls in Texas, ABC, 1978; Celebrity Football Classic, NBC, 1979; The TV Show, ABC, 1979; Doug Henning's World of Magic, NBC, 1982; Billy Crystal: A Comic's Line, HBO, 1984; A Comedy Salute to Baseball, NBC, 1985; Night of 100 Stars, ABC, 1985; Comic Relief: Backstage Pass, 1986; (and executive producer and director) On Location: Billy Crystal—Don't Get Me Started, HBO, 1986; The Lost Minutes of Billy Crystal, HBO, 1987; All-Star Toast to the Improv, HBO, 1988; Life's Most Embarrassing Moments, syndicated, 1988; Robert Klein Time, USA Network, 1988; All-Star Tribute to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBC, 1989; Grand Slam, syndicated, 1989; (and executive producer) Midnight Train to Moscow, HBO, 1989; Saturday Night Live Fifteenth Anniversary, NBC, 1989; Overtime … with Pat O'Brien, CBS, 1990; Robert Wuhl's World Tour, HBO, 1990; Wolf Trap Salutes Victor Borge: An Eightieth Birthday Celebration, PBS, 1990; The World of Jewish Humor, PBS, 1990; A Comedy Salute to Michael Jordan, NBC, 1991; Entertainers '91: The Top Twenty of the Year, ABC, 1991; Voices That Care, Fox, 1991; HBO's Twentieth Anniversary—We Hardly Believe It Ourselves, CBS/HBO, 1992; Muhammad Ali's Fiftieth Birthday Celebration, ABC, 1992; When It Was a Game II, HBO, 1992; Wax Cracks Hollywood, HBO, 1993; But … Seriously, Showtime, 1994; (voice characterization) In Search of Dr. Seuss, TNT, 1994; Countdown to Comic Relief, Comedy Central, 1995; Hollywood Stars: A Century of Cinema (documentary), Disney Channel, 1995; Twenty Years of Comedy on HBO, HBO, 1995; Caesar's Writers, PBS, 1996; Watch a Rising Star Fiftieth Anniversary—Give or Take Twenty-six Years, CBS, 1996; Comic Relief's Tenth Anniversary, HBO, 1996; I Am Your Child, ABC, 1997; Sports on the Silver Screen, HBO, 1997; Daily Show Interview Special, Comedy Central, 1999; Saturday Night Live Twenty-fifth Anniversary, 1999; AFI's 100 Years, 100 Laughs, 2000; Concert for New York City, 2001; Muhammad Ali: Through the Eyes of the World, 2001; When Stand-up Comics Ruled the World, 2004; and Tell Them Who You Are, 2004. Host of numerous specials and awards presentations, including Annual Grammy Awards, 1987, 1989; and Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1990-93, 1997-98, 2000, 2004. Executive producer, Survival on the Mountain (television film), NBC, 1997. Director and producer, 61* (television film), 2001.


Screen Actors Guild.

Honors Awards

Emmy Award nomination, outstanding actor in a variety program, 1985, for Saturday Night Live; Grammy Award nomination, best comedy recording, 1985, for Mahvelous!; two CableACE awards and other CableACE Award nominations, National Cable Television Association, all 1986, all for On Location: Billy Crystal—Don't Get Me Started; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding individual performance in a variety or music program, 1987, for Twenty-ninth Annual Grammy Awards, 1988, for An All-Star Toast to the Improv, and 2000, for Seventy-second Annual Academy Awards; Emmy Award, outstanding performance in special events, 1989, for Thirty-first Annual Grammy Awards; Golden Apple Award for star of the year, Hollywood Women's Press Club, 1989; American Comedy Award, funniest actor in a motion picture, 1989, and Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a motion picture—comedy or musical, 1990, both for When Harry Met Sally …; Emmy Award, outstanding writing in a variety or music program, and Emmy Award nominations, outstanding individual performance in a variety or music program and outstanding variety, music, or comedy special, all 1990, all for Midnight Train to Moscow; Emmy Award (with others), outstanding writing in a variety or music program, and Emmy Award, outstanding individual performance in a variety or music program, both 1991, both for Sixty-third Annual Academy Awards; named comedy star of the decade, ShoWest Convention, 1991; American Comedy Award, and Golden Globe Award nomination, best actor in a musical or comedy, both 1991, and MTV Movie Award, best comedic performance, 1992, all for City Slickers; Emmy Award (with others), outstanding writing in a variety or music program, and American Comedy Award, both 1992, both for Sixty-forth Annual Academy Awards; Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a motion picture—comedy or musical, 1993, for Mr. Saturday Night; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding individual performance in a variety or music program, 1993, for Sixty-fifth Annual Academy Awards; American Comedy Award, funniest male performer in a TV special, 1999, for Seventieth Annual Academy Awards; named Hasty Pudding Man-of-the-Year, 2000; American Film Institute Star Award, U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, 2001; Emmy Award nominations, outstanding direction of a miniseries or movie and outstanding made-for-television movie, 2002, and Directors Guild of America Award nomination, 2002, all for 61*; has star on Hollywood Walk of Fame.



(With others) The Billy Crystal Comedy Hour, National Broadcast Company (NBC), 1982.

(With others) Saturday Night Live, NBC, 1984-1985.

(And executive producer) Sessions, Home Box Office (HBO), 1991.


(With others) The TV Show, ABC, 1979.

(With Rocco Urbisci) Billy Crystal: A Comic's Line, HBO, 1984.

A Comedy Salute to Baseball, NBC, 1985.

On Location: Billy Crystal—Don't Get Me Started, HBO, 1986.

(With others) Midnight Train to Moscow, HBO, 1989.


Goodnight Moon, 1987.

(With Eric Roth) Memories of Me, MGM/UA, 1988.

Mr. Saturday Night, Columbia, 1992.

City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold, Columbia, 1994.

Forget Paris, Columbia, 1995.

My Giant, Columbia, 1998.

(With Peter Tolan) America's Sweethearts, Columbia, 2001.


Mahvelous! (recording), A & M Records, 1985.

(With Dick Schaap) Absolutely Mahvelous, Putnam (New York, NY), 1986.

(Author of foreword) Ron Smith, 61*: The Story of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, and One Magic Summer, Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), 2001.

I Already Know I Love You, illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times and Playboy.

Work in Progress

An untitled project for Home Box Office, due 2005; a second children's book.


Billy Crystal is a famous comedian and actor who in the 1980s and 1990s became known for stand-up routines featuring comic impressions of celebrities such as sports broadcaster Howard Cosell and entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., for his work on the television series Soap and Saturday Night Live, and for his portrayal of average, likeable men in such films as When Harry Met Sally and City Slickers. A popular host of television specials due to his off-the-cuff wit, Crystal is known in Hollywood for his talent as well as for his dedication to his wife and two daughters.

Raised on Long Island, Crystal was attracted to the idea of performing at an early age, and he and his two brothers would perform shtick for their relatives in his grandmother's living room during family gatherings. He came to the attention of national audiences with his portrayal of Jodie Dallas, one of television's first recurring homosexual characters, in the series Soap, a situation comedy popular during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In 1984 Crystal joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, creating the character Fernando, a superficial nightclub performer for whom everything is "mahvelous." His high-profile role on the popular late-night show established Crystal as one of the leading comic talents of the decade, and his autobiography, published as Absolutely Mahvelous, draws upon the popularity of the Fernando character. In Absolutely Mahvelous, the comic actor tells of his childhood and youth, and describes with humor his years working on tour as a stand-up comedian. While a critic for Publishers Weekly found Crystal's account count of his youth and early career "uneventful," a Booklist contributor called Absolutely Mahvelous "brief but very funny."

In addition to television work, Crystal has starred in several films, including When Harry Met Sally …, a comic and sentimental look at love and New York City; he also portrays an urban dweller vacationing at a dude ranch in City Slickers. Crystal, who contributed to the screenplay of City Slickers, also authored a sequel, City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold, which was released in 1994. More recent films have included 1999's Analyze This and the sequel, Analyze That, both which star Robert De Niro as a mob boss attempting to get in touch with his kinder, gentler side with the help of reluctant psychiatrist Dr. Ben Sobel (Crystal).

While Crystal has sometimes been described by critics as too sentimental, the comic actor notes that he is too happy in his personal life to create the bitter, cutting-edge humor popular with some audiences. As a reflection of his contentment with family and friends, Crystal penned the 2004 book I Already Know I Love You, a picture book for young children inspired by his anticipation of his first grandchild, Ella. Written in simple rhyme, the book is narrated by a grandfather awaiting the birth of a grandchild who is depicted sometimes as a boy and sometimes as a girl. While several reviewers remarked that I Already Know I Love You is a less-than-effective picture book due to its clumsy rhyme and what a Publishers Weekly contributor described as the actor's characteristic "unabashed sentimental[ity]," critics agreed that the theme of the book would make it attractive as a gift book from doting grandparents.

Biographical and Critical Sources


American Film, July-August, 1989, pp. 30-33, 48.

Booklist, August, 1986, p. 1648.

Cosmopolitan, June, 1986, p. 80.

Daily Variety, May 19, 2001, Michael Schneider, "Crystal Clear Deal," p. 5; August 22, 2003, Nicole LaPorte, "Crystal's Family Addition Inspires Kids' Tome," p. 4.

Entertainment Weekly, June 17, 1994, pp. 26-29.

Gentlemen's Quarterly, August, 1989, p. 199.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2004, review of I Already Know I Love You, p. 327.

Life, July, 1989, p. 68; April, 1990, p. 90.

McCall's, July, 1991, p. 58.

People, September 30, 1985, p. 40.

Publishers Weekly, July 11, 1986, p. 59; March 15, 2004, review of I Already Know I Love You, p. 72.

Rolling Stone, October 24, 1985, p. 49.

Time, October, 19, 1992, pp. 66-68.

TV Guide, November 15, 1980, p. 30; March 24, 1990, p. 5.*

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