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When Harry Met Sally’s Billy Crystal Reflects on Iconic Rom-Com, How SNL & Friendship with Rob Reiner Changed His Life


Summary

  • Billy Crystal credits Saturday Night Live with turning his career around.
  • Crystal’s 50-year friendship with Rob Reiner includes their unforgettable, life-altering collaboration on When Harry Met Sally.
  • When Harry Met Sally is not only one of, if not the best rom-com ever made, but it’s arguably the role Crystal is most recognized for.


It’s hard to deny that When Harry Met Sally embodies the gold standard when it comes to romantic comedies. However, the beloved rom-com absolutely owes a debt of gratitude to Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert’s Oscar-winning ways in 1934’s genre-defining motion picture, It Happened One Night. But when it comes to When Harry Met Sally star Billy Crystal, he feels indebted to both Saturday Night Live and his lifelong friendship with Rob Reiner for changing the trajectory of his career.

Crystal was supposed to be a part of the original group of performers on SNL, now famously known as “the not ready for primetime players,” which, of course, included the likes of Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd among many others. And while that deal fell through for Crystal, the comedic actor still credits SNL with turning his career around when he eventually joined the television show as a regular in 1984. Crystal recalled being asked to join the series as a cast member by producer Dick Ebersol in an interview with CBS Mornings:

“And then that summer he [Ebersol] called me up and said, ‘Let me ask you a question. If I could get Marty Short and Chris Guest and Harry Shearer, would you come and do a year?’ And I said, ‘Let me think about it… YES. It really turned my whole career around because it’s where I wanted to be nine years before […] It was lucky because I was ready — this time I was ready.”

Related: 30 Best Romantic Comedies of All Time, Ranked


When Billy Crystal Met Rob Reiner

Columbia Pictures

Odds are that Billy Crystal, as his iconic SNL character, Fernando Lamas, would say, “looks and feels marvelous,” after having been awarded with one of The Kennedy Center Honors. The lifetime artistic achievement for Crystal’s acting and comedic career was presented back on December 3, and the gala will be available to watch on Wednesday, December 27, on both CBS and Paramount+ at 8 p.m. EST. And while Crystal credits SNL with changing his career, the comedic actor serendipitously crossed paths with another television star, Rob Reiner, on All in the Family, which led to arguably Crystal’s most recognizable motion picture role.

Crystal was hired to guest star as Michael’s (Reiner) best friend, Al Bender, during the sixth season episode of All in the Family, New Year’s Wedding. From that chance meeting, Crystal and Reiner forged a friendship that has lasted nearly 50 years! And, as all rom-com fans already know, that kinship led to Crystal starring in Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally (1989). The two had already collaborated as director and actor on the unforgettable hit The Princess Bride in 1987, but When Harry Met Sally launched Crystal’s film career into an entirely different stratosphere, particularly in terms of sheer recognition. Crystal said in the same interview:

“It’s [When Harry Met Sally] actually more important as time goes by because people fall in love every day. People fall out of love every day. People find each other, they lose each other every day. And new generations keep finding When Harry Met Sally. They keep discovering it, and we’re forever young in that movie. And we represent them. They relate to us.”

Check out the CBS Mornings interview with Billy Crystal in its entirety (below). During the sit-down, Crystal actually returns to Katz’s Deli in NYC, which is where the famous “I’ll have what she’s having” scene was shot for When Harry Met Sally. Fans can actually stop by the delicatessen and visit the very table where Sally (Meg Ryan) belted out her famous fake orgasm.



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