Billy Crystal on His 'Wonderful' Relationship with Carl Reiner: ‘He Was an Uncle to Me’

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Billy Crystal is looking back on his special bond with Carl Reiner.

During a virtual appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Wednesday, Crystal, 72, spoke about how Reiner — who died last June at age 98 — helped shape his successful career in film and comedy.

"If there was a career to aspire to, for me, it was his," Crystal said of Reiner, "because he did so many things. He was a great sketch player, he was a wonderful writer. Right up until the day he passed away, he was still writing. He produced, created The Dick Van Dyke Show, was hilarious in it."

The six-time Emmy winner recalled that Reiner first "made me laugh" when he was a young child watching Reiner's sketch comedies Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour.

"And then when he was 98 and I was with him on his birthday, he made me laugh," Crystal continued. "And in between all that time, he made everybody laugh. He was an uncle to me, and Mel [Brooks] has been the same way. That's one of the great blessings. Rob [Reiner] is my dearest friend and then Carl and I had a whole separate, wonderful relationship where we would speak and talk."

"He was just a giant," he added of Reiner. "I mean really a giant."

Crystal went on to say that he "was very blessed" to have had a friendship with Reiner, whom he was able to see just before the comedy legend's death.

"I was at Carl's birthday, the last one he could have because of the pandemic," he said. "It was 98 and he blows out his candles and he makes a wish and Rob said, 'What'd you wish for Pop?' And he went, 'Alright [President Donald Trump], you're out of here."

Reiner died on June 29, 2020 at his home in Beverly Hills, California, of natural causes, his assistant Judy Nagy confirmed to PEOPLE at the time.

Following news of Reiner's death, countless stars paid tribute to the comedy legend, including Van Dyke, Alan Alda, George Clooney, Steve Martin, Rosanna Arquette, and Joy Behar.

Reiner's son, Rob, also paid tribute to his father on Twitter at the time. "Last night my dad passed away," wrote Rob, 73. "As I write this my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light."

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