"Fernando Talk" (With "Barry Manilow") and "Baseball"
Billy Crystal, cast member, 1984-1985: Christopher Guest, Martin Short and I were only on the show a year, but everyone thinks that we were there for four or five because there were so many good pieces. So I narrowed it down to a couple of favorites: There was a Fernando piece that was all improvised. The intro was written and then whatever happened happened, and then it was different from the dress and the air. The host had no idea what I was going to do, and sometimes I didn't.
One night, we had Barry Manilow scheduled to be in the hideaway with Fernando. So at a quarter to 11 that night, Barry decided he didn't want to do it. Now we were stuck for a guest. On the crew was a guy named Bobby. He drove a camera crane around, and he weighed about 350 pounds, but he had the sweetest personality and he was funny. So I asked him, "Would you be in the hideaway with me and you'll play Barry Manilow?" So I brought Bobby into the booth and we improv, and it's really funny. He was really charming. What was so much fun about it was that it was dangerous, it was live, and the audience could feel it. There were no cue cards up in front of us, so they all knew that we were just flying.
Another favorite was a film that I did with Chris Guest, where we played 75-year-old former Negro League baseball players, who now live together, and it's a documentary on them that Chris directed. Again, we improvised. It was a time when you could play African-American characters without people getting all upset about it. Different time. And we so loved these characters and were so true to them. That was such a fun year, and those two sketches really stand out to me because they were so in the spirit of the danger of the show, the live-ness of the show, and I got to work with such great people. There's some really beautiful work there.