William Edward “Billy” Crystal is an American actor, writer, producer, comedian and film director. He gained prominence in the 1970s for playing Jodie Dallas on the ABC sitcom Soap and became a Hollywood film star during the late 1980s and 1990s, appearing in the critical and box office successes When Harry Met Sally. and City Slickers. Additionally, he has hosted the Academy Awards eight times.
Crystal was born in the Doctor’s Hospital in Manhattan and grew up in Long Beach, New York, the son of Helen, 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 a 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. He then went on to Nassau Community College, and later attended New York University where he graduated with a B.F.A. from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1970. He was also the Editor-in-Chief of the BG News from 1969-70.
Billy Crystal and his wife Janice 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 also was on the dais for the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast of Muhammad Ali on February 19, 1976 where he made dead-on impersonations of both The Champ and sportscaster Howard Cosell. He was scheduled to appear on the first episode of Saturday Night Live, 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 subsequently released an album of his stand-up material titled Mahvelous! in 1985, as well as the single “You Look Marvelous”, which peaked at #58 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the same year. Also in the 1980s, Crystal starred in an episode of Shelley Duvalls Faerie tale theater as the smartest of the three little pigs.