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Josh Gad, Billy Crystal, The Comedians

Ray Mickshaw/FX

Billy Crystal is baaack!

The legendary funnyman stars alongside Josh Gad in The Comedians, FX's new Curb Your Enthusiasm-like series premiering on April 9.

The two play themselves (at least versions of themselves) as they go about trying to put together a new sketch comedy show.

Crystal appeared for one season of Saturday Night Live in the mid-'80s. Before that, he was one of the breakout stars of Soap, a parody of daytime soap operas that ran on ABC from 1977-1981.

Crystal admitted he's turned down many sitcom and talk show offers over the last three decades. More recently, he said, "It's the grandfather who can't work the cellphone."

Josh Gad, Billy Crystal, The Comedians

Ray Mickshaw/FX

But The Comedians, based on Swedish series, struck a chord.

"The Swedish company that produced the show called and said they had done 12 episodes in Sweden. Take a look. It's yours if you want it," Crystal told me at The Comedians special screening at South by Southwest. "I watched the first one and I was like, 'I can do this. I can do this.'"

It was the live comedy that reeled him in.

"I saw it as giving me the chance to return to do what I did on SNL and in my stand-up," Crystal explained. "I'm in a live show, we have a live audience. We have the filmed pieces that roll in. We're creating characters. I come into work and it's, '"How about this character, what about this sketch?'"

Billy Crystal



Steven Weber guest stars as Jamie, an old director pal of Crystal's who has transitioned to female since they last saw each other many years ago.

His story arc was shot before the February 2014 premiere of Transparent, the hit Amazon Prime series about an older man (Jeffrey Tambor) who comes out as transgender. "We were ahead of the curve, but now we're behind the curve," Crystal said with a laugh.

Weber's character was inspired by a member of the Navy's SEAL Team Six.

"She was one of the people who went after Bin Laden and then transitioned after that," Crystal said, referring to Kristin Beck. "I saw that and I said, 'Wait a second, what about Jamie becoming a woman?'"