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At 73, Billy Crystal is just warming up

CBS News logo CBS News 11/29/2021 CBSNews
billy-crystal-heisman-trophy-1280.jpg © CBS News billy-crystal-heisman-trophy-1280.jpg

This is only part of how Billy Crystal takes care of himself these days: a workout with a speeding ball that's a lot harder to catch than it looks.

Correspondent Tracy Smith asked, "How often do you do this?"

"I try to do it every day, at least five, six days," he replied. "And then I have a big eggplant parmesan hero!"

Comedian Billy Crystal with correspondent Tracy Smith.  / Credit: CBS News © Provided by CBS News Comedian Billy Crystal with correspondent Tracy Smith.  / Credit: CBS News

Kidding aside, he has a pretty serious reason to stay in shape. Starting March 1, he'll be doing seven shows a week on Broadway in "Mr. Saturday Night," a musical based on his 1992 film. 

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 / Credit: "Mr. Saturday Night" © Provided by CBS News / Credit: "Mr. Saturday Night"

Back then, Crystal was 44 playing a 73-year-old. Now, you might say he's grown into the role.

"I am 73," he said. "So, I don't need the five hours of makeup. I just show up now. And I gotta tell you, it's very thrilling because it just comes easier."

"What do you mean, it comes easier?" asked Smith.

"I don't have to assume a physicality about him. I just have it now."

Seems aging has often been an inspiration for him, like a man nearing 40 in "City Slickers." ["40s, you grow a little pot belly, you grow another chin, the music starts to get too loud, one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother."] And Crystal's always had a great time playing old, like Miracle Max in 1987's "The Princess Bride."

But actually getting old? Not so much.

Smith asked, "What are some of the not-so-great things about getting older?"

"Well, first of all, you're getting older. But, hey, I'll take it, you know? Ummm … … … … memory!"

He actually played a man losing his memory in this year's film, "Here Today," with Tiffany Haddish.

"I don't know. I think of myself sometimes, with my attitude, I'm like the Heisman Trophy. I'm just gonna straight-arm whatever's comin' at me and just avoid being tackled, until it's time to be tackled. But, you know, I think it's how you take care of yourself. It's what you put into your body. It's what you don't put into your body. That, you know, that helps."

Comedian Billy Crystal is holding old age at bay.  / Credit: CBS News © Provided by CBS News Comedian Billy Crystal is holding old age at bay.  / Credit: CBS News

He also says it helps to have a few role models, like the great George Burns. "I once asked him, 'George, are you gonna retire?' And he said, 'To what? What would I do?' I said, 'So, what's the secret?' 'Get outta bed. Every day, just wake up and just get outta bed.' And he lived to 100. And he was still performing in Vegas. He'd sing 12, 15 songs, some of which he finished. And otherwise, sometimes he'd start out and just sing a little bit. 'Lonesome Sally was the one. She was -- and then you know the rest of that one. Next.'  And then he just would take his cigar and just hit it against the mic to get the ash off the tip.

"So, I said, 'How do you know when you're done?' He says, 'When there's more ashes on the floor than there are on the cigar, then I'm done.'"

But no way is Crystal done yet. In some ways it feels like he is still a guy just playing a 73-year-old – an all-star with plenty of time left on the clock.

"I feel so good about how I'm working, that it's really exciting now," he said. "I know a lotta people who say, 'I'm done.' I feel like I'm starting. And that's very exciting for me."

 / Credit: CBS News © Provided by CBS News / Credit: CBS News

      

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Story produced by John D'Amelio. Editor: Lauren Barnello. 

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