Billy Precious stone says satire is 'turning into a minefield'


Crystal touches on the theme of changing comedic tastes in his latest flick, “Here Today.” The movie, the first he’s directed in two decades, follows a veteran comedy scribe, Charlie Burnz (played by Crystal), who is battling dementia. He unexpectedly meets a singer named Emma Payge (Tiffany Haddish) and the two form an unlikely yet touching friendship.

The Long Island-raised star, 73, who also co-wrote the script with Alan Zweibel, says that he got the idea for the film due to a relative who he was taking care of and was battling dementia.

“She described to me, so painfully, ‘I’m losing my words,’ and she was scared,” he said.

Despite the movie dealing with such a serious subject, Crystal stresses that aging and Alzheimer’s is not the main theme. Instead, he wants people to focus on the sweet relationship between his character and Haddish’s, which he thinks is sorely needed today.

That’s something that we really need more of, the country, and that is empathy and that’s what I think is the beautiful part of this friendship,” he said. “She gives up a chance for her career to move forward to take care of him. And I think that’s a beautiful thing.”

The entertainment all-rounder said that while he’s been offered films to direct over the years, nothing felt worth investing two years of his life until “Here Today.”

Crystal has a career that spans decades — from his start as one of the first gay characters on TV in the comedy “Soap” to beloved movies including “The Princess Bride,” “When Harry Met Sally … ” and “City Slickers.” He even won a Tony for Special Theatrical Event in 2005 for his autobiographical one-man show “700 Sundays.”

Of the common thread running through all his characters, he said, “They’re human, there is a humanity about the characters I like to play and there’s something redeeming about them.”

One of his most iconic roles — Mike Wazowski, a one-eyed, excitable green-hued monster — is making a comeback. In July, a cartoon series, “Monsters at Work,” spawned from “Monsters, Inc.,” will start streaming on Disney+.

“I love Mike,” he said. “He’s one of my favorite characters that I’ve ever played in anything. He’s fearless, he’s optimistic, he’s funny. I get to work with John Goodman and a bunch of amazing people in the new series, which begins on the first day after the last movie ended. So we’re on the Laugh Floor, and there are new characters, Mindy Kaling and Henry Winkler, and others from the first movie.


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