The Slatest

Billy Crystal’s Homage to Ali at the Champ’s Memorial Was Touching and Hilarious

Comedian Billy Crystal gave one of the best homages to Muhammad Ali at the boxing legend’s memorial service in Kentucky on Friday. Sprinkling the tribute with laugh lines, Crystal described his first meeting with Ali when he was a struggling comedian and discussed their ensuing decades of friendship.

“It’s very hard to describe how much he meant to me. You had to live in his time. It’s great to look at clips and it’s amazing to have them, but to live in his time, watching his fights, experiencing the genius of his talent was absolutely extraordinary. Every one of his fights was the aura of a Super Bowl. He did things nobody would do. He predicted the round that he would knock somebody out in, then he would do it,” Crystal said. “He was funny, he was beautiful, he was the most perfect athlete you ever saw, and those were his own words.”

Crystal then did his classic impressions of Howard Cosell and Ali—the ones that got him on the same stage as the champion that first time. It’s all quite lovely. Give it a watch above.

Read more in Slate about Muhammad Ali.