Billy Crystal Biography

Billy Crystal, a renowned American actor, comedian, and television host, has captivated audiences for nearly five decades with his unforgettable performances. From a young age, he possessed a natural talent for bringing laughter to others, which led him to pursue a career in standup comedy at just 16 years old. While he initially aspired to become a professional baseball player, his passion for acting led him to study at the prestigious New York University Tisch School of Arts. Starting his career as a standup comedian in New York City, he later ventured to Los Angeles to pursue acting in television shows and films. Additionally, he made appearances as himself on special shows like ‘Saturday Night Show’. Not only is Billy Crystal known for his acting prowess, but he is also highly regarded as a host for various awards ceremonies, boasting three Grammy Awards and nine Academy Award ceremonies. Furthermore, he has been honored with five Emmy Awards for his exceptional hosting skills.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: William Edward Crystal
  • Age: 75 Years, 75 Year Old Males
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Janice Goldfinger
    • Father: Jack Crystal
    • Mother: Helen Crystal
    • Siblings: Joel Crystal, Richard Crystal
  • Born Country: United States
  • Occupation: Actors, Comedians
  • Height: 5’7″ (170 cm), 5’7″ Males
  • Ancestry: Russian American, Lithuanian American, Austrian American
  • Notable Alumni: Nassau Community College, Tisch School Of The Arts
  • City: New York City
  • U.S. State: New Yorkers
  • Education: Marshall University, New York University, Tisch School Of The Arts, Nassau Community College

Childhood & Early Years

Billy Crystal was born on March 14, 1948, in New York City. His father Jack Crystal owned and operated a music store and was a jazz promoter and producer. His mother Helen was a homemaker. Billy Crystal was the youngest of his parents’ three children. He and his older brothers, Joel and Richard, were initially raised in the Bronx. The family later moved to Long Island where the Crystal brothers grew up in a musical environment. Many well-known musicians were often invited as their guests.


In 1965, Crystal graduated from Long Beach High School and entered Marshal University on a baseball scholarship. However, the university suspended its baseball program that year, so he had to enroll in Nassau Community College to study theatre. After studying at Nassau for some time, he moved to New York University to study film and television direction. He graduated from there in 1970, earning a BFA from the university’s School of Fine Arts, which would later be renamed as the Tisch School of Arts.


In 1969, while still a student at New York University, Billy Crystal formed a comedy trio with two of his Nassau classmates. After performing with the group for four years, he started doing solo acts at prestigious comedy clubs like The Improv and Catch a Rising Star. Concurrently, he also started working as a substitute teacher.

Crystal moved to Los Angeles in August 1976 and made his television debut in the same year. His first appearance was as Al Bender in one episode of the CBS sitcom, All in the Family. He was then seen as himself in shows like The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast and Saturday Night Live. His first movie, SST: Death Flight, a made-for-television film, was released on February 25, 1977. Later that year, he bagged his first starring role when he was cast as Jodie Dallas in the sitcom Soap, appearing in its 73 episodes until 1981.

In 1978, he debuted on the big screen with the lead role of Lionel Carpenter in the comedy film, Rabbit Test. Thereafter, he appeared in various television productions, hosting five episodes of The Billy Crystal Comedy Hour (1982) and two episodes of Saturday Night Live (1984). Crystal’s film career received an impetus in 1984 when he played a brief but memorable role of Morty the Mime in the cult classic mokumentary This Is Spinal Tap.

In 1986, he starred in the action comedy film Running Sacred and hosted the TV show Billy Crystal: Don’t Get Me Started – The Billy Crystal Special. Around the same time, he also started Comic Relief, a yearly fund-raising program for the homeless, along with Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg. In 1987, he featured in the brief role of magician Miracle Max in the adventure-action movie The Princess Bride and starred as Larry Donner in the black comedy Throw Momma from the Train. This was also the year when he debuted as an award show host, presenting the 29th Annual Grammy Awards.

Much in demand as an award show host, Crystal went on to present the Annual Grammy Awards in 1988 and 1989. Thereafter, he began to host the Academy Award ceremony, hosting it in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004, and 2012. Meanwhile, in 1988, he earned his first screenwriting credit after co-writing Memories of Me. In the 1990s, he began to concentrate more on films instead of television shows, working in ten movies that decade. He received critical acclaim for his roles in films like City Slickers (1991), Mr. Saturday Night (1992), City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (1994), Deconstructing Harry (1997), and Analyze This (1999).

In 2001, Crystal emerged as a voice actor, voicing the character of Michael “Mike” Wazowski in the animation film Monsters, Inc. Thereafter, he worked in Untogether (2018) and Standing Up, Falling Down, which released on April 25, 2019. He also played a role in the upcoming animated web television series Monsters at Work, which is expected to be released in 2020.

Major Works

Billy Crystal’s portrayal of the protagonist Harry Burns in the 1989 romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally is considered to be one of his most important works. The film is ranked 23rd on the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Laughs list. He won a Tony Award for his one-man Broadway act 700 Sundays, which was about the events of his early years on Long Island. Following the play’s success, he converted it into a book of the same name.

Family & Personal Life

Billy Crystal married Janice Louise Goldfinger on June 4, 1970. The couple has two daughters together, Jennifer Crystal Foley and Lindsay Crystal. Crystal is also a published author who has five books to his credit. They include Absolutely Mahvelous (1986), I Already Know I Love You (2004), Grandpa’s Little One (2006), 700 Sundays (2005), and Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? (2013).

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