Comedian Billy Crystal, known for hosting the Oscars nine times and starring in hits like “The Princess Bride,” “When Harry Met Sally…” and “Analyze This,” celebrates over 50 years in showbiz. He’s been named one of the 46th annual Kennedy Center Honorees, alongside stars like Renée Fleming, Barry Gibb, Queen Latifah, and Dionne Warwick.
“I’m on Cloud 12. You can see nine from there,” Crystal joked on “CBS Mornings.”
This honor marks not just a career highlight but also a cherished family moment, as he celebrated with his loved ones.
“This is what I felt, because looking, I’m wearing the (Kennedy Center Honors) medallion at the dinner. They just put it around your neck. And now, officially being this person, you’re an honoree. And I look out and there’s my two beautiful daughters, Jenny and Lindsay,” Crystal shared.
He continued, “I always wanted them to know that if I had to be away it was because I was doing what I had to do, and something that made me happy, and that the lesson for your life is whatever you’re doing, be happy in what you’re doing.”
Crystal’s love for performing started right at home, being the youngest of three boys. He recalled learning to improvise at just 5 years old, often putting on performances with his brothers.
“I was just fearless. That’s why this Kennedy thing hit me so hard, because it takes you right back to the beginning. And it’s, how did I get here?” reflected Crystal.
His journey began in New York City’s comedy clubs in the 70s. A big early bump in the road came when he was dropped from “NBC’s Saturday Night” — now known as “Saturday Night Live” — just before its first show.
“It killed me. Because I was part of the like, the whole thing leading up to it,” Crystal recalled.
Despite the setbacks, Crystal’s determination and skill eventually brought him back to the SNL stage. This moment, according to Crystal, was a game-changer for his career.
“It was where I wanted to be nine years before,” Crystal explained. “I was lucky, because I was ready. This time I was ready.”
His big moment came with his role in “Soap,” where he played an openly gay character, a bold and unprecedented move in TV at the time.
“I did the show because I thought, if we could make him real and charming and funny and honest, we’d be doing something no one had done before, and it took time to get there and we did,” he shared.
Crystal starred in “Soap” for four seasons. However, it was his meeting with director Rob Reiner that paved the way for his major roles in films like “The Princess Bride” and “When Harry Met Sally…”
He described Reiner as the “ideal director” for his openness to creativity, saying, “He let us play. We added so much stuff as we went on.”
His knack for improvisation and his dynamic with fellow actors, including Meg Ryan, led to iconic scenes that still captivate viewers today, such as the famous Katz’s Deli scene from “When Harry Met Sally…”
“It’s an amazing phenomenon that this has touched people, and this little piece of history here in New York City — you know, the movie was 1989,” Crystal remarked.
He believes that “When Harry Met Sally…” stands out as one of his most memorable films because of its lasting impact.
“It’s actually more important as time goes by, because people fall in love everyday. People fall out of love everyday. People find each other, they lose each other every day. And new generations keep finding ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ They keep discovering it, and we’re forever young in that movie. And we represent them. They relate to us,” Crystal explained.