Spending A Night with Billy Crystal

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 21: Actor Billy Crystal is seen performing on stage during the Spend The Night With Billy Crystal Tour at the Adrienne Arsht Center on January 21, 2017 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)

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Let me start out by saying I have never laughed so hard in my entire life. If the saying that laughter is the best medicine is true, then I should be set for a while. Billy Crystal, the beloved stand-up comic turned television and movie star, entertained the audience for nearly three hours at the Moran Theatre in Downtown Jacksonville on a brisk January evening.

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As I sat down in my seat, I noticed two comfortable looking chairs on the stage. I did not read up on the performance in advance because I wanted the evening to be as spontaneous as possible. I was therefore surprised to see comedian and actress Bonnie Hunt join Crystal on stage. Instead of the usual stand-up show with a stool, Billy and Bonnie sat down and had a conversation. I really liked the setting because it enhanced the atmosphere. Being in such a large theatre makes it hard to create intimacy, but the set up contributed to the show.

Billy and Bonnie kicked off the current tour in Miami just days before visiting Jacksonville.

632360512.502961761As Bonnie stayed in her seat for most of the show, Billy was up and down and using his chair as a prop. He acted out with gestures during many of his stories.  It was like taking a trip down memory lane as the audience relived many of his great performances.

As you may know, Crystal started his career as a stand-up comic. He appeared as a regular on the ABC sitcom Soap all four seasons (1977-1981).  Billy’s career skyrocketed when he was cast as a regular on Saturday Night Live in the mid-80s. His parody of Fernando Lamas is famous. His catchphrase “You look…mahvelous!” was widely used in the 1980s.

Billy is also famous for his impersonations of Sammy Davis Jr., Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell. Crystal and Ali became lifelong friends until Ali’s death in June 2016. It was a real treat to watch a clip from “15 Rounds” for Ali from his 1979 retirement tribute.

Crystal’s first film role was Rabbit Test in 1978. He also portrayed Miracle Max in The Princess Bride (1987). Billy’s film career took flight with the critical and box office success When Harry Met Sally (1989) where he co-starred with Meg Ryan. He followed up with City Slickers in 1991 with the great Jack Palance and Analyze This with Robert De Niro in 1999. He also voiced Mike Wazowski in the animated film franchise Monsters, Inc. (2001) and Monsters University (2013).

632360426.502961746Billy Crystal is by far my favorite host of the Academy Awards. He hosted the Oscars nine times and received three Emmy Awards for hosting and/or writing. Crystal is also the author of the NY Times best seller Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?

During the performance, Billy told stories and shared clips from films and other vignettes. Many of the stories and jokes were directed at an adult audience. At the end, he ask Bonnie to leave the stage and he then invited three ladies to join his on stage for an impromptu scene. Overall, the show presented by the Larry Magid Entertainment Group was hilarious. I want to thank Billy Crystal and Bonnie Hunt for allowing this critic to enjoy a wonderful and relaxing evening of storytelling and comedy.

Upcoming performances at the Times Union Center include: The Jersey Boys (February 14-17), The Little Mermaid (March 21-26), One Woman Sex and the City: A Parody of Love, Friendship and Shoes (April 7-8), Kinky Boots (May 2-7) and Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella (June 13-18). For a complete listing, please visit www.fscjartistseries.org

About Leigh Ann Rassler