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Actor Billy Crystal explains his remarks about “gratuitous” gay sex on TV

“What I meant was that whenever sex or graphic nudity of any kind (gay or straight) is gratuitous to the plot or story, it becomes a little too much for my taste.”

Billy Crystal

— Actor and comedian Billy Crystal, responding to a question from The Hollywood Reporter about surprising comments he made this past Sunday during a Television Critics Association press tour. 

According to a full transcript of the Q&A session, Crystal was asked about his character, Jodie Dallas, on the 1970s sitcom Soap, specifically if it had been difficult to play the first recurring, out gay character on television. Crystal replied that it had been “very difficult” and later added that he would “feel this anger” at the live studio audience for laughing nervously when his character would tell his boyfriend, “I love you.”

The actor alluded to other characters appearing on TV over the years, then added about current depictions, “I’ve seen some stuff recently on TV in different kinds of shows where the language or the explicit sex is really — you know, sometimes I get it, and sometimes I just feel like, ‘Ah, that’s too much for me.'”

Going back to Soap, Crystal said he relied on the support of that show’s cast and creators to find “some sort of courage” to play his gay scenes, because the audience’s nervousness made them “very self conscious about what we were trying to do then.” Contrasting his pioneering effort with today’s shows, he added, “And now, it’s just, I see it, and I hope people don’t abuse it and shove it in our face — well, that sounds terrible — to the point of it just feels like an everyday kind of thing.”

After the session with the reporters, Jim Halterman, of Xfinity’s TV Blog, followed up with Crystal. During a long interview about his upcoming show, The Comedians, Crystal was asked about his statements possibly being interpreted as offensive. He replied:

“First of all, I don’t understand why there would be anything offensive that I said. When it gets too far either visually — now, that world exists because it does for the hetero world, it exists, and I don’t want to see that either. But when I feel it’s a cause — when I feel it’s, ‘You’re going to like my lifestyle’ — no matter what it is, I’m going to have a problem; and there were a couple of shows I went, ‘I couldn’t watch that with somebody else.’ That’s fine. If whoever writes it or produces it — totally get it. It’s all about personal taste.”

Regarding the unspecified programs that he seemed to find off-putting, Crystal said, “I don’t think it was doing the gay community a service, in my opinion because it was just too much for me. There’s no controversy.” He pointed out that he had not made any effort to contact anyone to express his disapproval. “I stayed out of it and maybe I shouldn’t have said anything today.”

Media outlets and bloggers mostly picked up on Crystal’s initial comments, posting headlines like,

Read Crystal’s full comments at Xfinity TV Blog and The Hollywood Reporter.

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JD Uy has been a Metro Weekly webmaster, distribution manager, blogger and videographer since 2002.

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