UnknownBilly Crystal is making the rounds promoting his new book, “Still Fooling ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going and Where the Hell Are My Keys?.”  I was mesmerized during his interview with John Stewart, as much for his amazing storytelling skills as for John Stewart’s spontaneous table-banging laughter.

Crystal’s “early days” story about being the intro act for the band, Blood, Sweat & Tears is perfect. His physicality as a storyteller is integral to his power. As soon as Stewart prompts him, Crystal does four things almost instantaneously.

Body Language Extraordinaire 

He shakes his head:         MESSAGE: “Oh, do I have a story for you.”

He lowers his pitch:          MESSAGE: “Come in, join me, story time has begun.”

He speeds up his pace:    MESSAGE: “Let me deliver basic facts QUICKLY so you can join in.”

He reacts instantly to audience response:      MESSAGE: “Audience: I see you and hear you and I absolutely make room for you to be a part of this story.”

Continuous Movement He builds his stories with his hands, which are constantly in motion, used as a props, literally directing and reenacting the story. He brings the real characters to life, using his voice to imitate their style and energy. He changes pace, pitch and tone…fast, slow, louder, whisper. The personal joy and enthusiasm he brings to his craft is contagious.

Like Picasso Watching Crystal reminds me of that famous Picasso story, where Picasso charges a woman, who approaches him on a park bench, $5,000 for a sketch he did of her in five seconds. When she protests the steep price for a moment of his time, he replies, “Madame, it took me a lifetime.”  Billie Crystal too has honed his mastery over a lifetime. It’s a pleasure to watch and next time you consider engaging in some storytelling during a presentation, watch some Billy Crystal to get yourself inspired and warmed up!

The story runs for 1 minute and 40 seconds. You have to endure the 15-second advertisement before the video starts and then go to the 1:30 minute mark to begin. Billy Crystal on The Daily Show If you want to get even racier (and watch Stewart table bang) finish the entire 6-minute video.  Enjoy!


P.S. I love the advice Crystal shares from manager Jack Rollins who said to him during his early days, “Don’t work so safe, don’t be afraid to bomb, let me know how you feel about things…put you in your material.”