7:30pm PT by Bryn Elise Sandberg
'The Comedians' Billy Crystal on Playing Himself: It's "Ironically Great"
Billy Crystal is having the time of his life on The Comedians.
He and the The Book of Mormon’s Josh Gad make up the old school-new school comedy duo in FX's new half-hour mockumentary about the making of a sketch series. Like Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock, The Comeback and others, The Comedians utilizes the ever-popular show-within-a-show format.
The two jokesters also, in a bid to give the series more of an edge, play exaggerated versions of themselves — and Crystal couldn't be happier about it. “After all of these years in the business playing all these different characters, to end up playing myself and having it being the most satisfying is kind of ironically great,” Crystal told The Hollywood Reporter.
The extra dose of reality would make a show that relies on comedy’s generational gap more relatable, he thought, especially with frequent references to each of the actor's past work. Though, it wasn’t until he found an onscreen partner in Gad that the pair decided they would play characters modeled after their real-life personas.
Crystal was sold on the concept for the series within the first five minutes of watching the original Swedish series, Ulveson & Herngren, which he says felt like a foreign film to him. “I’ve never done that,” he admitted of being immediately enticed by the faux docu-style format, “but I just knew these two guys were so inspired and that if we could find the right person to do this show [with me]… I could really be happy doing it.”
The constant bickering and goofy humor, most notably a scene where in the two leads jaunt down the street dressed in sailor costumes, made Crystal laugh. But the goal of the U.S. remake isn’t just simple amusement. “We want to get big laughs,” exec producer and showrunner Ben Wexler acknowledges. “We’re not trying to make you smile and chuckle in your seat; we’re actually trying to make you laugh.”
For Crystal, The Comedians offered the best possible way for him to return to the small screen, he contends. “Otherwise I’m going to wait around for what?" he joked. "The network show that has me playing the grandfather who can’t figure out his cell phone?”
The Comedians airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. on FX.