Billy Crystal
Photo: Julie Brothers

1) The Best, Unexpected Time for Joke...

"When I'm not thrilled, I get funny. Whatever it is that's bothering me—interacting with annoying guy at a restaurant, contemplating my age or losing friends to illness—I'll start to chip away at it. If you can poke holes in it, it's not as formidable, it's not as scary, and ultimately it becomes another truth. What life throws at you—you just have to learn how to hit it, which is a baseball metaphor. The ball's outside, you hit to the right. You don't let them go by."

2) Why We All Need to Say "I"...

"The other day a young comedian stopped me on the street, and he said, 'I can't get onstage at this club. What do I do?' I told him what Mr. Jack Rollins told me. Which was: 'Don't be afraid to bomb. Don't work safe. Be really willing to put yourself into everything you say. Make sure that you have "I" in your sentences, like "I think this, I feel this, you know what bothers me?"' Your success is in your point of view; it's your life that you're talking about; it's your observations. That's the best lesson that I ever had."

3) How to Get Over Being Bumped by Saturday Night Live in 1975...or Any Other Maaaan, or Ughhh

"To this day, there's still a little maaaan in me about being bumped from the show. That little ughhh. But those moments, you have to be able to push them aside. You just have no choice. You have to focus on where you are at the time. Because that same year, if Johnny Carson introduces you on The Tonight Show and you walk out there, and he's standing about 30 feet to your right, if you're thinking about something that happened a few months ago, you're doomed."

Next: The actor's favorite When Harry Met Sally scene

4) What That Silly Voice Really Means...

"Everyone, hopefully in their lives, has fallen in love and fallen out of it—and also found out how sometimes it's difficult for people to get to that point of saying 'I love you.' That was the task of When Harry Met Sally. Rehearsing the whole scene in the temple of Dendur, I used this funny voice with Meg Ryan, because everyone's got a silly side, and, with somebody you're starting to really like, you let that silly side of you out. The director, Rob Reiner, said, 'Let's just shoot it.' And it ended up being, for me, my favorite scene in the movie. Because they're falling in love with each other, and there's little looks where they kind of know it but don't at the same time. And I think that's why, to this day, it still rings true with people."

5) The Greatest Part of Doing a Good Job...

"Everybody, no matter what profession you're in, has some moment where you walk away going, 'Yeah, I did that one good!' Without sounding cocky or bragging. For me, as a comedian, this moment came when I hosted the Oscars. Johnny Carson called me afterwards—and that was amazing, that I'll always remember. But I think one of the most important things is also to be able to tell yourself you were good that night. It's important not to have to get it from other people. For me, that was a long time coming, and when it finally does come, it's a great, great feeling."

Billy Crystal is the author of Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?

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