Crystal was born in the Doctor's Hospital in Manhattan
and grew up in Long Beach, New York, the son of Helen (née
Gabler), a housewife, and Jack Crystal, a record company executive
and producer of jazz records, who owned and operated the Commodore
Record store. His uncle was musician and songwriter Milt Gabler,
and his brother, Richard Crystal, is a television producer. Crystal
grew up in a Jewish family that he has described as "large"
and "loving". After graduation from Long Beach High
School, Crystal attended Marshall University in Huntington, West
Virginia, on a baseball scholarship, having learned the game from
his father, who pitched for St. John's University. Crystal never
played a game at Marshall because the program was suspended during
his freshman year and he didn't return as a sophomore, staying back
in New York with his future wife. Later, he attended New York University
and Nassau Community College.
Crystal has been married to Janice Goldfinger, whom
he met when he was 18 and she 17, since 1970. They have two daughters,
actresses Jennifer and Lindsay, and are now grandparents. They reside
in Pacific Palisades, California.
Crystal returned to New York and performed regularly at The Improv
and Catch a Rising Star. He studied film and television direction
under Martin Scorsese at New York University. Crystal's earliest
prominent role was as Jodie Dallas on Soap, one of the first gay
characters portrayed on American television. In 1976, Crystal appeared
on an episode of All in the Family. He was scheduled to appear on
the first episode of Saturday Night Live (October 11, 1975), but
his sketch was cut. He did do a stand-up bit later on that first
season as "Bill Crystal", on the April 17, 1976, episode.
After hosting a show years later, in 1984, he joined the cast.
His most famous recurring sketch was his parody of Fernando Lamas
– Fernando, a smarmy talk show host whose catch phrase, "You
look... mahvelous!," became a media sensation.
Crystal's first film role was in Joan Rivers's 1978
film Rabbit Test. Crystal also made game show appearances such as
The Hollywood Squares and The $20,000 Pyramid. He holds the record
for getting his contestant partner to the top of the pyramid in
the bonus round in the fastest time, 26 seconds.
Crystal hosted the Academy Awards broadcast in 1990–1993,
1997, 1998, 2000, and 2004; and he reportedly turned down the opportunity
to host the 2006 ceremony to concentrate on his one-man show, 700
Sundays. His eight times as the emcee is second only to legendary
Oscar host Bob Hope in most ceremonies hosted.
Crystal appeared briefly in Rob Reiner's 1984 "rockumentary"
This Is Spinal Tap as Morty The Mime, a waiter dressed as a mime
at one of Spinal Tap's parties. He shared the scene with a then-unknown,
non-speaking Dana Carvey. Crystal's memorable line in the film was
"Mime is money." Eventually, Reiner directed Crystal again
in The Princess Bride, and then in the romantic comedy When Harry
Met Sally..., for which Crystal was nominated for a Golden Globe.
Crystal also appeared in the box-office hit City Slickers (1991).
Crystal wrote, directed, and starred in Mr. Saturday
Night (1992) and Forget Paris (1995). In the former, Crystal played
a serious role in aging makeup, as an egotistical comedian who reflects
back on his career. He directed the made-for-television movie 61*
(2001) based on Roger Maris's and Mickey Mantle's race to break
Babe Ruth's single-season home run record in 1961. This earned Crystal
an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie
or a Special.
Crystal has continued working in film, including
the popular Analyze This (1999) and Analyze That (2002) with Robert
De Niro. Crystal lent his voice to the character Mike Wazowski
in Pixar's animated feature film Monsters, Inc., and in the English
version of Howl's Moving Castle as the voice of Calcifer. Pixar
originally approached him to provide the voice of Buzz Lightyear
in Toy Story. He turned down that offer, but regretted it after
the film became one of the most popular releases of the year.
Crystal won the 2005 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event
for 700 Sundays, a two-act, one-man play, which he conceived and
wrote about his parents and his childhood growing up on Long Island.
He toured the U.S. with the show in 2006 and Australia in 2007.
Following the initial success of the play, Crystal
wrote the book 700 Sundays for Warner Books, which was published
on October 31, 2005. In conjunction with the book and the play that
also paid tribute to his uncle, Milt Gabler, Crystal produced two
CD compilations: Billy Crystal Presents: The Milt Gabler Story,
which featured his uncle's most influential recordings from Billie
Holiday's "Strange Fruit" to "Rock Around the Clock"
by Bill Haley & His Comets; and Billy Remembers Billie featuring
Crystal's favorite Holiday recordings.
In 1986, Crystal started hosting Comic Relief on HBO with Robin
Williams and Whoopi Goldberg. Founded by Bob Zmuda, Comic Relief
raises money for homeless people in the United States.
On September 6, 2005, on The Tonight Show, Crystal
and Jay Leno were the first celebrities to sign a Harley-Davidson
motorcycle to be auctioned off for Gulf Coast relief.
Crystal has also participated in the Simon Wiesenthal
Center Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. Portraying himself in
a video, Crystal introduces museum guests to the genealogy wing
of the museum.
New York Yankees
On March 12, 2008, Crystal signed a minor league contract, for a
single day, to play with the New York Yankees, and was invited to
the team's major league spring training. Billy wore uniform number
60, in honor of his upcoming 60th birthday. On March 13, in a
spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Crystal led
off as the designated hitter. He managed to make contact, fouling
a fastball up the first base line, but was eventually struck out
by Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm on 6 pitches and was later replaced
in the batting order by Johnny Damon. He was released on March
14, his 60th birthday.
In addition to his Golden Globe Award-nominations, Emmy Awards,
and Tony Award, Crystal is the 2007 recipient of the Mark Twain
Prize for American Humor.
Soap - (1977-1981) as "Jodie Dallas"
Rabbit Test - (1978) as "Lionel Carpenter"
Animalympics - (1980) (voiceover) as "Lodge Turkell"
This Is Spinal Tap - (1984) as "Morty the Mime"
Running Scared - (1986) as "Danny Costanzo"
The Princess Bride - (1987) as "Miracle Max"
Throw Momma from the Train - (1987) as "Larry Donner"
Memories of Me - (1988) as Abbie
When Harry Met Sally... - (1989) as "Harry Burns"
City Slickers (1991) as "Mitch Robbins"
Horton Hatches the Egg (1992) narrator (voice)
Mr. Saturday Night (1992) as "Buddy Young, Jr."
City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold (1994) as "Mitch
Forget Paris (1995) as "Mickey Gordon" (also directed
by Billy Crystal)
Hamlet (1996) as "First Gravedigger"
Deconstructing Harry (1997) as "Larry/The Devil"
Fathers' Day (1997) as "Jack Lawrence"
My Giant (1998) as "Sam 'Sammy' Kamin"
Analyze This (1999) as "Ben Sobel, M.D."
America's Sweethearts (2001) as "Lee Phillips"
Monsters, Inc. (2001) as "Michael (Mike) Wazowski" (voice)
Analyze That (2002) as "Ben Sobel, M.D."
Howl's Moving Castle (film) (2005) as "Calcifer" (voice)
Cars (2006) as "Mike Car" (cameo voice)
Washington "D.C." (pre-production) as "Commissioner
Saturday Night Live
Al Minkman, a shady businessman
Fernando, host of Fernando's Hideaway, a celebrity interview show;
based on actor Fernando Lamas
Buddy Young, Jr. (an insult comic who appears on Weekend Update)
Ricky, a bowler
Tony Minetti, a butcher
Willie, a man who, along with his friend, Frankie (played by Christopher
Guest), discuss their masochistic tendencies
Sammy Davis, Jr.