By Megan Blackwell
Artist: Billy Crystal
Date / Venue: Thursday July 21st, 2016 - ASB Theatre, Auckland
Billy Crystal’s arrival into the country has been a welcomed distraction from a week of political gaffes, music world drama and Pokemon Go. His guest appearance on TV1’s Seven Sharp was a nice glimpse into his open demeanour. For me Crystal is an actor and comedian whose work is tightly woven into my pop culture experiences. I couldn’t have been more excited to see him live.
The show started with Andrew Denton first appearing on stage to brief us on housekeeping and ensure we were on our best behaviour. Crystal strolled out looking perfectly at home. Not only did he look great at 68, he looked down right cool in his casual faded black jeans, black tshirt and blazer. While this is his first time performing in NZ it’s his second visit to our wee country. He had plenty of gushy compliments to warm us up with having spent a month here nine years ago.
To get things rolling we were shown a montage of Crystal’s greatest moments. It included scenes from Soap, Throw Momma from the Train, When Harry Met Sally, Saturday Night Live, City Slickers, Monsters Inc & (of course) The Princess Bride. Even though I felt I had a pretty good knowledge of his body of work, I did find myself surprised at the variety and how long standing his career has been. Crystal is so totally a pillar of Jewish American humour with his fast wit and self mockery. He’s truly a chameleon when it comes to his impressions and characters.
Denton kept the show moving forward by basically creating a candid Q & A with Crystal, allowing him to move from anecdote to anecdote. Crystal points out his first shameless name drop with a story about dinner with Ben Stiller. It felt like a cue to be unimpressed and that maybe the night was going to be more about his personal journey rather than his work with other celebrities. However the names got bigger with the likes of Martin Scorsese, Sammy Davis Jr, and Orson Welles. His stories were incredibly engaging and he told them from a generously personal perspective. It was fascinating to hear about his first failures, his first successes and the people he’s encountered along the way.
I was especially touched by his reflection upon close friends the Champ himself, Muhammed Ali and fellow comedian/actor Robin Williams. For Crystal to share his memories and thoughts on a these two legends was a real privilege.
The show closed with photos of Crystal time travelling NZ in 2007. While it was a bit odd to be shown photos of our, albeit pretty, back yard it was heartening to know Crystal enjoyed his time here enough to share his snaps with us. Let’s hope that means his next visit will be sooner than another nine years.