The Most “Mahvelous” Facts About Billy Crystal’s Life

Billy Crystal is one hilarious and beloved actor, comedian, and TV host, who has been keeping his fans enthralled with his outstanding performances for nearly half a century. As a kid, those around him rapidly noticed the natural knack he had for making people laugh.

Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito / Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal / Billy Crystal / Billy Crystal and Janice Crystal.
Source: Getty Images

He decided to go ahead and pursue this skill professionally. He began with small standup comedies at the age of 16 and went on to study acting, as well as directing at New York University Tisch School of Arts. He started working as a comedian but quickly moved on to various other creative endeavors. Let’s jump into this talented man’s life.

His Dad Was Into Jazz

Billy Crystal was born on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and was initially raised in the Bronx. At one point, his family moved to Long Beach, New York, on Long Island, where they lived happily – Billy, and his older brothers, Joel and Richard.

An old photo of Billy and his older siblings.
Source: Twitter

His mom, Helen was a housewife, and his dad, Jack, owned a music store, founded by the actor’s grandfather, Julius. Crystal’s dad was also a producer and a jazz promoter, as well as an executive for a jazz record label founded by Billy’s uncle, Milt Gabler.

Jazz Artists Were Their Guests

Billy is Jewish and grew up attending a synagogue called the Temple Emanu-El where he celebrated his bar-mitzvah (a Jewish celebration when a boy turns 13). Growing up, Billy and his brothers often reprised comedy sketches originally played by people like Sid Caesar and Rich Little.

A young Billy Crystal performs for his family.
Source: YouTube

And due to their father’s line of work, many jazz artists would pop up in their household on a weekly basis: artists including, Billy Holiday, Arvell Shaw, Eddie Condon, and Pee Wee Russell. Finally, after years in the business, Billy’s father died at the age of 54 from a heart attack. This happened a little after the decline of Dixieland jazz.

He Landed a Baseball Scholarship

After graduating from high school in 1964, Billy enrolled at Marshall University, where he landed a baseball scholarship. It was his father who taught him how to play ball, but ultimately, the actor never ended up playing because the program was suspended.

Billy poses by the Marshall University Radio department.
Source: Reddit

Billy didn’t return to school afterward and decided to stay in New York next to his girlfriend Janice. He then studied acting at HB Studio and later attended community college. He went on to study at New York University, where he majored in film and television directing.

He’s Been Married for Over 50 Years

Want to know what it takes to make a marriage work? You better ask Billy Crystal, who has been married to his wife Janice for over five decades. The actor, known for his epic roles in When Harry Met Sally and The Princess Bride, wed his high school sweetheart in 1970.

Billy Crystal with wife Janice attending the
Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Billy fell in love with Janice long before he found fame. “We’ve grown together, we’ve parented together, we’ve grandparented together,” Billy told Us Weekly in 2018. Born and raised in New York, Janice met Billy while she was a young high schooler. “I’m lucky that I found the person when I was 18,” he admitted.

She’s Both an Actor and Producer

Like her husband, Janice has also made a name for herself in showbiz, but unlike Billy, she prefers to keep her profile relatively low. She’s produced movies like My Uncle Berns and, fittingly, Billy’s own Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays. She even took home a Tony Award for her production work on Billy’s movie.

Billy Crystal and Janice Crystal attends Celebrity Fight Night
Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Despite preferring to keep her job behind the scenes, Janice did have an onscreen role in her husband’s 2021 movie – Here Today. She also directed it. The movie stars Tiffany Haddish, Penn Badgley, and Laura Benanti.

They Share Two Daughters!

After tying the knot on Jun. 4, 1970, Billy and Janice went on to welcome two daughters: Jennifer Crystal Foley, 49, and Lindsay Crystal, 44. Both girls have also tried their hand at entertainment: Jennifer has had roles on House and Once and Again, while Linsday followed in her producer mom’s footsteps.

Janice Crystal, Billy Crystal, and their daughters attend an event.
Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images

Billy and Janice are also doting grandparents to four grandkids! Jennifer shares daughters Ella Ryan, 18, and Dylan Frances, 16, with her husband Michael Francis Foley, whom she wed in 2000. Lindsay is a mom to two children of her own, whom she shares with her husband Howie Miller.

No Social Media for Her

While Billy Crystal is active on his personal social media accounts, Janice Crystal prefers to keep things on the down low. She prefers to keep her personal life somewhat private, although she’s been seen countless times with Billy on the red carpet.

Billy Crystal and Janice Crystal walk the red carpet.
Photo by Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic/Getty Images

She has accompanied her husband to multiple award shows, and while she’s a bit more low-key than him, she still seems very happy and easy-going in front of the cameras. The ease and pure love between them can be seen through their apparent smiles and gentle gestures.

What Is the Secret to a Long-Lasting Love?

Billy Crystal shared his thoughts in 2018 when he sat down with Us Weekly to talk about his personal life. When it comes to maintaining a healthy marriage, he said “We laugh a lot.” At the end of the day, Billy explained, it all comes down to doing fun things together.

Billy Crystal and wife Janice Crystal pose backstage.
Photo by Bruce Glikas/Getty Images

But not only that. Billy Crystal also explained that the reason he and Janice have managed to last for so long, is because they know how to listen. Their conversations are open and honest. “Just keep listening to each other,” he explained.

The Best Part of Being a Grandfather

When US Weekly asked Billy about his experience as a grandfather, he immediately smiled and said: “[It’s] that you see yourself in your kids first, and now you see your kids and a little bit of yourself in the grandkids, and it’s just a great rejuvenation of your spirit.”

Billy Crystal poses with his extended family.
Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images

The actor, who played Meg Ryan’s onscreen love, admitted that he spoils his grandkids here and there. It’s hard to resist, he revealed. But despite the fact that he tends to give in to their pleading, he says he realizes that “spoiling is not a good thing to do.”

His Parents Set an Example for Him

Billy and Janice Crystal have been married for over five decades – a truly incredible achievement considering the fact that both stars are deeply involved in showbiz. They are good friends who know how to listen and care for one another.

A portrait of Billy Crystal.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Billy credits his parents at home for setting an example of a proper marriage. “My parents always looked like they loved being together,” the actor told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2016. “That’s what I took from them, and that’s how my wife and I are.”

The Best Movies He’s Starred In

Billy Crystal is a beloved actor and comedian, and, throughout his prosperous career, he has gained fame for doing many things: acting, improvising, hosting the Oscars, telling stories, writing stories, and more.

Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish in a still from Here Today.
Source: Stage 6 Films

The star has been part of so many fantastic comedies that have gone on to become classics. One of his recent projects includes “Here Today,” a movie that he directed and wrote. Comedy comes naturally to Billy, and no matter what he does – it always ends up being “mahvelous!” Here’s a look at his greatest films.

Running Scared (1986)

It might be difficult to believe, but there once was a time when Billy Crystal was considered an action star. Back in the 1980s, when buddy cop films were all the rage, Billy Crystal hopped on the wagon and starred in some himself.

Billy Crystal as Danny Costanzo in a still from the film.
Source: MGM

The movie Running Scared had Crystal and actor Gregory Hines in the lead. The movie followed two officers who need to make one major arrest before they can finally retire. The movie isn’t all fun and games, but Crystal does add some funny lines. It’s set in Chicago, and has both humor, suspense, and drama. It was a moderate success though and was overshadowed by the decade’s other buddy cop films.

Mr. Saturday Night (1992)

The first movie Billy Crystal directed was Mr. Saturday Night. It told the story of a comedy icon who was trying, with all his might, to make a comeback. It centers around comedy and the pitfalls of trying to boost your career in show business.

Billy Crystal performs on stage as Buddy Young Jr.
Source: New Line Cinema

While the film garnered mixed reviews and was considered a box office bomb, Mr. Saturday Night showcases Crystal’s comedic talents, including his one-of-a-kind wit, and his clear love of comedy and the entertainment industry.

Throw Momma From the Train (1987)

Directed by the legendary director and Billy’s co-star in the film, Danny DeVito, Throw Momma From the Train is a clever comedy remake of the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie, Strangers on a Train.

Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito in a still from Throw Momma from the Train.
Source: Orion Pictures

The movie was a huge hit, and both critics and normal audiences praised Crystal and DeVito’s funny dynamic. For playing Owen’s mom in the film, actor Anne Ramsay got an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Analyze This (1999)

For this movie, Robert DeNiro left his gangster ways and finally turned to comedy. Analyze This is a film about an anxiety-plagued mobster who begins seeing a psychiatrist (played by Crystal). The film was directed by Harold Ramis.

Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal in a scene from Analyze This.
Source: Warner Bos.

The movie was a huge hit, thanks to a clever script and the incredible dynamic between its two leading stars. It was a smart and witty satire of the mobster genre. The sequel to the film, Analyze That, aired a few years later, and while it didn’t live up to the first one, it was still a moderate hit.

Deconstructing Harry (1997)

In the film Deconstructing Harry, Billy Crystal plays a minor role, but he’s such a talented man that it really doesn’t matter. In this bizarre movie, the leading man is a writer named Harry Block, who is confronted by his stories and the people he based them on.

Woody Allen, Elisabeth Shue, and Billy Crystal on the set of Deconstructing Harry.
Source: Fine Line Features

Crystal’s role is Larry, a man who Harry’s wife leaves him for. In the movie, Harry tells the tale of a comically dark story. He travels to Hell and comes face to face with the Devil, also played by none other than Crystal. The two of them then proceed to talk about the terrible things they’ve done and get into an argument over who’s worse.

Standing Up, Falling Down (2020)

Over the years, Crystal has gotten more and more into roles that suit his age, like fatherly mentor roles. That’s precisely what he played when he joined the cast of Standing Up, Falling Down. The movie, starring Ben Schwartz, revolves around a failed comedian that moves back to his parents’ home.

Billy Crystal and Ben Schwartz in a scene from Standing Up, Falling Down.
Source: Shout! Studios

He then meets a funny, yet reckless alcoholic dermatologist played by yours truly, Billy Crystal. The movie premiered in 2019 at the Tribeca Film Festival and was widely praised by critics and audiences, in particular, for the chemistry between the two leads.

City Slickers (1991)

Arguably one of Billy Crystal’s most iconic films is City Slickers. The movie is a Western comedy centering around three inexperienced people who decide to participate in a cattle drive that takes a turn for the worse.

Billy Crystal and Jack Palance in a still from City Slickers.
Source: New Line Cinema

In the movie, Billy Crystal plays Mitch, a middle-aged man in the middle of a midlife crisis. He stars alongside co-star Jack Palance who plays Curly. City Slickers is emotional, funny, and contains a lot of subtle references related to life, aging, and death.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

When Harry Met Sally was released in 1989, it set a completely new standard for rom-coms, and ever since then, only a few have managed to attain that level of authenticity and emotion. The movie centers around the story of two friends and their fear of getting involved romantically so as not to ruin their friendship.

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in a scene from When Harry Met Sally.
Source: Columbia Pictures

The movie not only made stars out of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, but it also became a movie classic, and not only in the rom-com genre. The film, written by Nora Ephron, was extremely successful when it first came out, in part thanks to the undeniable chemistry between the two leads.

Monsters Inc. (2001)

After he turned down the opportunity to play Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story, a decision he would later regret, Billy Crystal decided to take on the role of Mike Wazowski in Monsters Inc. The movie takes place in a world full of – you guessed it – monsters.

Billy Crystal attends the premiere of
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage/Getty Images

Billy Crystal voices the short, stubborn, one-eyed, green scary monster. Like most movies crafted by Pixar, Monsters Inc proved to be a huge commercial and critical success. It even spawned a sequel – Monsters University, as well as a Disney+ series called Monsters at Work.

The Princess Bride

One of Billy Crystal’s most memorable roles is, in fact, a minor one in the movie The Princess Bride. The film is a fairy tale fantasy story about a pirate who has to overcome many obstacles in order to finally reunite with his one and only love.

Billy Crystal and Carol Kane in a still from The Princess Bride.
Source: MGM

In the movie, Billy Crystal plays Miracle Max, a funny medicine man. Fun fact about the movie: he improvised most of the scene he was in. The film was a modest success at the box office when it first came out, but over time, it became extremely popular.

He Has the Right to Be Choosy

After nearly five decades in showbiz, actor Billy Crystal surely has the right to be choosy. His work resume is super diverse – from Saturday Night Live to hosting his own show to hosting the Oscars, Crystal has achieved a lot.

Billy Crystal is hosting the 76th Annual Academy Awards.
Photo by M. Caulfield/WireImage/Getty Images

Billy has also starred in some of the cinema’s greatest hits, he’s directed four movies, he’s won six primetime Emmys, as well as a Tony and a Mark Twain prize. I believe it’s fair to say that he is one of the most cherished and beloved stars in history.

He Took a Break

Even though Crystal’s resume is quite impressive, there’s one area he’s less experienced in – going behind the camera as a director. After he worked on the films Mr. Saturday Night (1992) and Forget Paris (1995), he took a break.

Crystal is directing on the set of Here Today.
Source: Stage 6 Films

Crystal didn’t direct again until 2001. Now, twenty years later, Crystal is back. He sat in the director’s chair with the movie “Here Today,” a drama in which he stars next to fellow star Tiffany Haddish. The movie is loosely inspired by something his co-writer Alan Zweibel had been through several years ago.

He Had a Terrible Allergic Reaction

As it turns out, Alan Zweibel once sat down with a friend for lunch when his companion suddenly developed a terrible allergic reaction. Zweibel then found himself in the middle of her health crisis. The film “Here Today” starts out with that scene. Crystal plays a megastar named Charlie Burnz who eats lunch with one of his fans, when suddenly…

Crystal and Haddish talk on the set of Here Today.
Source: Stage 6 Films

Crystal’s onscreen fan falls ill during the meal. For the actor, this movie is a dream come true. He said he had been looking for a while to star in a movie about a platonic bond between an older man and a younger woman.

The Movie Is Precisely That!

Billy Crystal looked for a movie that would showcase a special bond such as the one described before, and he got exactly what he hoped for! In a recent interview with IndieWire, the actor shared his reasons for returning to showbiz.

Billy Crystal attends the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival.
Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

He talked about his fears when it comes to directing, his favorite memories of working on Saturday Night Live, and about life in general. Here’s a glimpse into the highlights of the chat.

Why Such a Long Pause?

When it came to the question of why it took him so long to get back to directing, Billy Crystal answered: “Because I didn’t find anything that I connected with enough to want to give so much to it and spend a year, year-and-a-half, sometimes two years on a project. And I was busy, back on Broadway twice and doing other things.”

Billy Crystal and Jay Leno appear onstage during
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

But when he began writing again with Alan Zweibel, he felt right at home. The script became very visual to him, and he had no doubt that he was on the right track. He connected to the characters and to their relationship. “It moved me,” he added, “and it still moves me.”

Nothing Touched Him After “61*”

When his film 61* came out, it was really well received. And for a good reason – the movie was made from the heart, and it showed. “I was 13 that summer when Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle went after Babe Ruth’s record and went to as many games as I could. And then I got to be friends with Mantle. I had a real personal connection to that, to get it right,” Crystal explained.

Billy Crystal and Thomas Jane talk on the set of 61*
Source: YouTube

He then got a lot of offers for baseball films, but he turned them all down because he felt that he had already done that and that there was no reason to add more of the same material to his resume. So instead, he waited and waited until he found a story he really connected with.

Sweet SNL Memories

According to Billy Crystal, working on SNL were some “of my favorite years of my life.” He recalled working with incredible people including Ringo Starr, Howard Cosell, and Barbara Bach. He also recalled one day when Barry Manilow was a no-show, and they had to find someone to fill in.

Crystal takes part in a comedy sketch in an episode of SNL.
Source: NBC

“One of the members of the crew was this wonderful guy named Bobby Fraraccio, and Bobby was a large person, he weighed about 350, I’d say. He was very funny, we used to joke all during the week,” Crystal said, explaining that Bobby was the one who ultimately replaced Barry.

They Improvised the Whole Scene

Crystal got on stage and explained to the crowd that Barry Manilow wasn’t going to come. “But I cannot disappoint my fans because I love you very much. And you know who you are. So please welcome … One of our crew has accepted to play his part. Here’s Barry Manilow,” he told fans.

Bobby Fraraccio as Berry Manilow.
Source: YouTube

How did play out? Well, Bobby walked in and sat down next to Billy. He took off his headset and the two just started talking. They basically improvised the whole scene. “It was hilarious, and it was what live TV should be,” he said. “I loved that moment.”

He Loves Playing Different People

During the interview, Billy repeatedly stated that working on SNL was one of his favorite years. “It put me back where I wanted to be, playing different characters, being able to be all these different people, but also myself.”

Billy appears on the set of SNL.
Source: YouTube

When he was on “Soap,” he played the same character for four years. But on SNL, he played four characters before “Weekend Update,” so, “that was a thrill,” he explained. While Crystal was on the show just one year, he made quite the impact.

What Has He Been Watching Lately?

When asked about his recent favorite movies, the actor responded: “I loved “Fauda.” I loved “My Octopus Teacher.” What am I watching now? “The Last Kingdom.” I finally watched the first episode of “Game of Thrones,” so I got through that.”

Billy takes a mirror selfie.
Source: Twitter

In truth, Billy Crystal’s taste in movies is pretty eclectic. He’s open to watching a bunch of different things, even shows he never expected to like! He said he ended up loving shows like “Dave,” a strange series he never thought he would enjoy.

His Musical Career

Due to the success of Billy’s standup career, he released an album in 1985 called “Mahvelous!” It did pretty well, peaking at number 85 on the Billboard Hot 100 in America, and climbed all the way to No. 17 in Canada!

Billy Crystal makes funny faces from the stage.
Photo by J. Merritt/FilmMagic/Getty Images

The album’s title track “You Look Marvelous” had its own music video that debuted on MTV later that year. Both the song and the video showcases Crystal in his SNL character as talk show host Fernando Lamas. The album ended up being nominated for a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording.

His Daughter – Jennifer Crystal Foley

Born on January 26, 1973, Jennifer Crystal Foley grew up in the limelight – in Hollywood, under her father’s movie star status. Even though she prefers keeping things pretty low key (she’s known for dashing out of the spotlight these days), Jennifer has tried her hand at acting here and there.

Billy Crystal and Jennifer Crystal Foley attend an event.
Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images

She first appeared in City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold as a jogger. The film is the sequel to her famous dad’s iconic flick, City Slickers. She also starred in her father’s 1997 comedy flick “Fathers’ Day,” where she starred alongside Robin Williams.

A TV Star

Apart from the silver screen, Jennifer appeared on several famous TV shows that aired in the ’90s and 2000s. She landed guest roles on Beverly Hills, as well as 90210, NYPD Blue, and Touched by an Angel. But she didn’t land just guest roles! She also starred in leading roles in ABC’s Once and Again and House.

Jennifer Crystal Foley arrives at Fox's
Photo by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Apart from acting, Jennifer studied and graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago in Evanston, Illinois. She tied the knot with her college sweetheart, Michael Foley, at the start of the decade, and they gave birth to two daughters – Ella Ryan (born in 2003), and Dylan Frances (born in 2006).

Lindsay Crystal

Born several years after her sister, in the fall of 1977, Lindsay Crystal didn’t think twice and followed in her father’s footsteps as well. She grew up in LA and made her silver screen debut as the character of Holly Robbins in the 1991 movie City Slickers.

Lindsay Crystal and Billy Crystal arrive for the Premiere of
Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

She also joined the film’s sequel, City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold. However, early on in her career, Lindsay decided she would transition to work that was more behind the scenes than in the spotlight.

She Followed in Her Mother’s Footsteps

Lindsay followed in her mom’s footsteps and began working behind the camera as a producer. According to her personal website, she works as a producer, director, and writer. She’s won several awards in her field.

Lindsay Crystal attends the Tribeca Film Festival.
Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

Lindsay has produced and directed numerous projects for programs of HBO, NBC, Comedy Central, Crooked Media, and more. She’s also worked as the producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Along with her team, she won four Emmy awards during her run with the crew.

Fun fact: Lindsay’s documentary, My Uncle Berns, was selected at the Tribeca Film Festival.

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