William Edward Crystal was born on March 14, 1948, in New York City. Crystal was born into show business. His father Jack and uncle Milt Gabler are legendary record producers, and Crystal spent his childhood surrounded by stars like Billie Holliday and Pee Wee Russell. After high school, Crystal attended Marshall University on a baseball scholarship, but he never got to play. Pursuing directorial ambitions, he later graduated from the prestigious New York University Tisch School of the Arts.
Having already performed in front of a live audience since age 16, Billy Crystal hit the stand-up circuit almost immediately after leaving Tisch, according to AllMovie, touring and opening for Barry Manilow. In 1977, Crystal landed his first successful television role as Jodie Dallas on the series Soap. Crystal's star was rising, and after making several appearances on the show, he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1984, where his most famous skit was Fernando, a parody of director Fernando Lamas. Fernando's catchphrase "You look...mahvelous!" has since become a part of pop culture.
Crystal's success in television led to a career in film. Crystal's first well known role was Miracle Max in the 1987 film The Princess Bride. Crystal would go on to be nominated for Golden Globes for his leading roles in 1989's When Harry Met Sally... and 1991's City Slickers, which Crystal also produced. In recent years, he has starred in hit movies such as Analyze This, Analyze That, and Monsters, Inc., and he is also an eight-time host of the Academy Awards. Along with Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg, Crystal has hosted the charity program Comedy Relief since 1986.
In 2005, Billy Crystal headed to Broadway with his one-man play 700 Sundays, which is based on his youth. The show won a 2005 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event. The play became a touring show as well as a book.