"It's amazing to me that, every day, someone will say his name now, or read his name," Crystal said of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts renaming a theater in his honor

By Michael Miller
November 12, 2015 04:00 PM

Billy Crystal is getting candid about his father, a well-known jazz impresario in the 50s and 60s, who just received a big honor from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

The City Slickers star sat down with Matt Lauer in Central Park for TODAY’s new “Chat with Matt” series on Thursday, and talked about what it means to have Tisch rename a theater after his dad.

“The fact that young artists will be in that same space and will find their own jazz, their own music, with people from all over the world, all different colors, all different kinds of people – that’s kinda perfect,” Crystal said of the newly christened “Jack Crystal Theater” at 111 Second Ave.

His father, Jack, ran the famed Commodore Music Shop and Commodore record label, which held jazz concerts for music legends like Willie “The Lion” Smith, Roy Eldridge and Billy Holiday, according to Tisch.

“It was part of the thing. He loved presenting this music to the world,” said the comedian said.

Jack Crystal died at 54 in 1964 when Billy was just 15, and the actor’s acclaimed one-man play “700 Sundays” refers to the number of Sundays they spent together.

Asked how he would describe his father, Crystal said, “A humanitarian. He was a very human guy. He was totally self-effacing. He was very shy.”

If his father knew the theater was being renamed in his honor, Crystal said, “I think he’d go, ‘Oh, no, no, no, I don’t deserve this. No, no, thanks anyway,’ ” He added, “It’s amazing to me that, every day, someone will say his name now, or read his name.”