Billy Crystal and an almost full ASB Theatre enjoyed a hugely satisfying mutual love affair on Thursday night.

If ever a man has earned the right to do sit down comedy, it's Crystal. A youthful 68, it's unlikely now that he'll bring his superb one-man show 700 Sundays to New Zealand.

Lucky Australia saw it some years ago, and it has appeared here on TV. When it did, I had the sense to hit the record button and have never deleted it.

Thursday's show was a journey through Crystal's show business career, a clever format that allows a mixture of anecdotes, film clips, and numerous impersonations of the very famous.


As with most successful stars, Crystal paid his dues before he hit the big time. After numerous gigs and fronting for rock bands, he was on the cusp of the big-time when he got bumped off an early episode of Saturday Night Live, a decision that held up his progress for some years.

People he was in awe of became his friends, helped often by his ability to mimic them brilliantly. Particularly funny and moving was his relationship with Muhammad Ali.

It's a like a selective ramble through showbiz: Sammy Davis Junior, Robin Williams, Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams; on and on. Wonderful.

The film clips added variety (and gave the man a break from time to time). First a montage of his famous roles on TV and film (when a scene from Soap came on, a groan of nostalgia from the man next to me. Hear hear.)

Later, a sequence from when he hosted the Oscars (nine times) and a wonderful tribute/impersonation of Ali again, after Ali had lost his championship to Spinks (heck, I'd forgotten).

Great credit to host-interviewer Andrew Denton who did a fine job, seamlessly and skillfully steering Crystal from one topic to another. It all seems effortless, which means, of course, a huge amount of work has gone into it.

Sit down, yes, but not all the time. Peeing in Morse Code at his age (ain't that the truth); tap dancing with the aid of a cough lolly in his mouth; and a slightly strange sketch with audience involvement to finish off the show.

Well, no, not quite. The show ends with an unnecessary slide show of his snaps of the South Island when he was on holiday here in 2007.

But we've been told throughout the evening how much he loves the place. And we love you, too, Billy. You know that.

• Billy Crystal performs at Auckland's ASB Theatre again tonight.