Search form

Billy Crystal Celebrated in "The Tenth Annual Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize" Airing Nationally on PBS

Washington, D.C. — "The Tenth Annual Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize" celebrates Billy Crystal, who has created one of the most versatile and prolific careers in the entertainment industry, finding success in front of the camera, as a performer in film and television, and behind the scenes as a writer director and producer. The program airs Monday, November 12, 2007, at 9 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide. Taped at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on October 11, the 90-minute special features tributes and comic testimonials from a star-studded cast of Crystal’s friends and colleagues including Bob Costas, Robert DeNiro, Danny DeVito, Jimmy Fallon, Whoopi Goldberg, John Goodman, Jon Lovitz, Madeleine Peyroux, Rob Reiner, Martin Short, Barbara Walters and Robin Williams. The program will also include an assortment of classic film clips from Crystal’s career.

“To be given the same award as Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, and Neil Simon is a great honor,” said Crystal. “As my grandfather said, if you hang around the store long enough, once in a while they’ll give you something!” He shared, “I told my grandaughter who is three that I won the Mark Twain Prize, and she said . . . ‘I have one too.’ I’m looking forward to a wonderful evening.”

After touring with such stars as Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, Neil Sedaka and Sha Na Na, Billy Crystal became a regular on the popular series Soap playing the first openly gay character on a network television series. During the 1984-85 television seasons, Crystal was met with phenomenal national success on Saturday Night Live. He created, wrote and produced the critically acclaimed HBO series Sessions and became the first comedian to perform in the then-Soviet Union with his special Midnight Train to Moscow, one of four one-man specials he has done for HBO. He has hosted the Grammy Awards three times and, of course, the Oscars eight times.

He starred in Running Scared, Throw Momma from the Train, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers I and II, Mr. Saturday Night, Forget Paris, Hamlet, Deconstructing Harry, Father’s Day, My Giant, Analyze This and That and America’s Sweethearts. Crystal’s film 61* for HBO films showcased him as both director and executive producer. It garnered 12 Emmy nominations including nods for Best Director and Best Made for Television Movie and also earned him a prestigious Director’s Guild nomination.

Crystal made his Broadway debut in 2004 with 700 Sundays, an autobiographical one-man play. The play opened to stellar reviews, and broke box office records, becoming the highest grossing non-musical in the history of Broadway and garnered him the Tony, Outer Critics Circle Award and the prestigious Drama Desk Award. In fall of 2005 Crystal took 700 Sundays on tour to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto breaking box office records. In October 2005, he adapted 700 Sundays into a book that joined his two children’s books, I Already Know I Love You and Grandpa’s Little One on the New York Times Bestseller’s List. Recently he took the show to Australia down in Sydney and Melbourne to standing ovations and sold out crowds each night.

A dedicated human rights advocate, he has co-hosted with Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg on all eight Comic Relief telethons on HBO, which have brought the plight of the nation’s homeless to the public and raised more than $40 million for housing and medical care for these people. Crystal, Williams and Goldberg reunited in November 2006 for a special Comic Relief to aid those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Crystal is the recipient of six Emmy Awards, six American Comedy Awards and seven Cable Ace Awards. He has been married for 36 years to Janice, and has two daughters, Jennifer and Lindsay, and granddaughters Ella and Dylan.

Billy Crystal is the tenth recipient of The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Past recipients of the prize have been Richard Pryor (1998), Jonathan Winters (1999), Carl Reiner (2000), Whoopi Goldberg (2001), Bob Newhart (2002), Lily Tomlin (2003), Lorne Michaels (2004), Steve Martin (2005) and Neil Simon (2006).

Billy Crystal: The Tenth Annual Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize is a co-production of WETA Washington, D.C.; The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Mark Krantz Productions; and Comedia. Executive producers are Robert Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky, Mark Krantz and Cappy McGarr. WETA executive producers are Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson.

Funding for Billy Crystal: The Tenth Annual Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize, is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Public Broadcasting Service. Media partner is USA TODAY.

The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was created in 1998 by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Mark Krantz, Peter Kaminsky and Bob Kaminsky and John Schreiber to recognize the art of humorists who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist best known as Mark Twain*. As a social commentator, satirist and creator of characters, Samuel Clemens was a fearless observer of society, who startled many while delighting and informing many more with his uncompromising perspective of social injustice and personal folly. He revealed the great truth of humor when he said “against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” Crystal will be presented a copy of an 1884 bronze portrait bust of Mark Twain, sculpted by Karl Gerhardt (1853-1940). The bust and its images are courtesy of the Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut.

The Kennedy Center, as the nation’s center for the performing arts, recognizes and presents all of the performing arts including opera, jazz, musical theater, drama, ballet and dance, as well as symphony and all kinds of smaller musical ensembles performing every imaginable kind of music.

WETA Washington, D.C., is the third-largest producing station for public television. WETA’s other productions and co-productions include The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal, In Performance at the White House, The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including The Civil War and THE WAR. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available on the website at

*"Mark Twain Prize" TM/© Chase Manhattan Bank and Richard A. Watson as trustees of The Mark Twain Foundation Trust under license authorized by CMG Worldwide Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana, 46256 USA.

# # #

Welcome back!

Connect with WETA

  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

Press Contacts