Crystal thanked his family, the casts and crews he's worked with over the years, and spoke about the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Kimmel paid tribute to his self-proclaimed "best friend," joking about his long, storied career and nothing the importance about Crystal's influence in his own.
"Maybe the most important thing about Billy for me selfishly, he is a great talk show guest. When Jay Leno forcibly took control of the Tonight show in 1993, he asked who to be his first guest? Billy crystal. And on Jay's final show, his third in a series of final shows, he asked Billy to be his because he doesn't disappoint. He is funny, on the stage, and a chair, Billy crystal is one of the all-time greats," Kimmel said before rolling a tape of some of Crystal's most memorable moments on screen.
Crystal was the first celebrity Kimmel interviewed, making it all the more fitting that he be the one to present him the honor at Sunday night's show.
"Billy Crystal was the first celebrity I ever interviewed back in 1997. And 25 years later, I am proud to call him my best friend, even though he most certainly is not. I'm working on it, though," Kimmel quipped. "Please welcome, and celebrate, the Critics Choice Lifetime Achievement Award honoree for 2022, the one and only Billy crystal."
Crystal didn't miss the opportunity to make a few jokes, at Kimmel's expense and the critics.
"Thank you so much. Thank you. Okay. Thank you. I so appreciate that. It is delightful just to be anywhere. Thank you, Jimmy. This is a little embarrassing, but I had asked for Jimmy Fallon. Now what do I do? I want to thank you for this wonderful award, to all the critics, this may be the first time we actually agree on something. Watching those clips just now made me think of one word, and that is residuals," Crystal began.
Jokes aside, Crystal thanked the casts and crews he worked with over the years and celebrated his ability to continue to work in the business for 50 years.
"I had to so many great moments and I want to thank all of those people I have the moments within every capacity, writers, producers, directors, agents, managers, I have been so blessed to work with amazing people my entire career, which is now in its 50th year," he revealed. "Tomorrow is my birthday. And I'm going to be 74 years old and as Jimmy mentioned, I am about to open in a Broadway musical April 27th on Broadway called Mr. Saturday Night, and I can't remember when I work harder and had more fun on a project. I am serious. I will be 74 tomorrow. I just can't remember."
The soon-to-be 74-year-old actor recounted his start and the people who inspired him be the comedian and actor he's become today.
"Funny people, entertainers, we start by making our parents laughed first. Our parents, family, and friends. I grew up in a time that was extraordinary. My older brothers and I came up in the early 1950s, when television was this new frontier, it was the comic that settled it. The greatest comics of the day. Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Phil silvers, Ernie Kovacs, Steve Allen, Jonathan Winters...and watching them get laughs made me want to get laughs," Crystal shared.
But his family played a part too, many of whom he said had roots in Ukraine.
"So, before I knew it, I am standing on a coffee table and imitating my relatives. Who were these joyful souls many of them from Rostov on-Don in Russia, my grandmothers were from Odessa and Kyiv. They escaped the programs to come to America where they could live free from tyranny," he said of his funny family members and their liniage.
"And their laughter, the first laughs I ever got in my life, is the fuel that my engine is still burning today. So, I dedicate this award to those amazing people in our living room back in Long Island whose laughter and joy started this 5-year-old boy on his way to this moment."
Crystal also took the moment to pray for those in Ukraine amid the ongoing war with Russia and share his hopes for laughter to return the war-torn region one day.
"And as we all have thought about and spoken about tonight, I pray that somehow, someway, there can be laughter and joy in that part of the world once again."
The 27th Annual Critics Choice Awards air Sunday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.
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