A visit with Billy Crystal in Piedmont Park

You already knew Billy Crystal was one of the funniest and most talented performers of our time. He's also a pretty nice guy.

"I love Atlanta," he said. "I always love coming here."

The artist is no stranger to Atlanta, having visited often over the years. He has family here, and he made a stop at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre during a 2009 tour. Now he's back, working on a movie titled "Parental Guidance," which has filmed in a subdivision in Alpharetta and at Perimeter Mall, with plans to shoot at a number of other locations around town including the Cobb Centre.

We visited the set on Tuesday when the project was shooting a scene in Piedmont Park. Crews had constructed a professional half-pipe for the scene, featuring skateboarding pro Tony Hawk. In the movie, Crystal and Bette Midler star as a couple whose three young grandkids run them around in circles. The scene they filmed Tuesday involved a 6-year-old's unauthorized, al fresco bathroom break.

“I have a 6-year-old peeing on a half-pipe,” Crystal said. “Life is good!”

Amid the movie's comic scenes, he and Midler's characters work to reconcile with their estranged daughter, played by Marisa Tomei.

We got a few minutes with the comic genius during a break.

"Hi, I’m Billy,” he said, sitting down in a canvas-backed chair.

Here’s a Q & A from our visit:

Q: Tell us about "Parental Guidance."

A: We wanted to make a fun movie that had a good heart. A whole family can enjoy this movie.

Q: It's somewhat autobiographical?

A: This is how the whole thing started. Janice [his wife of 30+ years] and I had the kids for five days.

Q: Oh, my.

A: That was the original title of the movie: "Oh my!" Kids are the toughest take-home exams. Listening is more important than talking.

Q: What do your grandchildren[ages 8, 5 and 2] teach you on a daily basis?

A: To take a deep breath before I bend.

Q: Did they sort of serve as consultants for the movie, to ensure the movie authentically portrayed young people?

A: They don't even realize it. You watch them and get ideas for scenes.

Q: What did your grandparents teach you when you were a child?

A: Don't put your finger in the pot! [His grandmother was a great cook.] They taught me love, responsibility.

Q: Tell us about your character in this movie, Artie.

A: He's a minor league baseball announcer who's just gotten fired. He's not in good shape.

Q: So while it's a comedy, it sounds like the movie also touches on more serious, real-life issues.

A: It says something about fractured families. It's all about real things.

Q: Eddie Murphy seems a little stressed about hosting the Oscars. What advice do you have for him?

A: You're always nervous about it. Just have fun! He's a great talent.