Call Me Lucky
2015, NR, 106 min. Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 7, 2015
Bobcat Goldthwait directs this documentary about Barry Crimmins, a comic with whom you are quite likely unfamiliar. Crimmins’ heyday was in the Eighties, prior to the arrival of a vast network of comedy clubs throughout the nation, and before the Internet and YouTube clips spread popular culture like wildfire. He was the virtual president of the Boston comedy scene during those years, and comics such as Steven Wright, David Cross, Margaret Cho, Marc Maron, Patton Oswalt, Tom Kenny, and more sing his praises in this film. Big and bearded, usually holding a beer and a cigarette, his fellow comics frequently describe his entrance as though a bear had just hit the stage. Gruff, smart, quick, and abrasive, Crimmins’ comedy could be like the attack of a wild animal. His friends always wondered about the source of his ferocity. Often, his sharp and incisive wit is compared with that of Bill Hicks and Lenny Bruce.
The answers to the Crimmins mystery became clear in the early Nineties, when he started talking in his act, as well as in an article in The Boston Phoenix, about the sexual abuse he had experienced as a child. At this point Crimmins became a comic/activist, who devoted a great deal of his time to the protection of children from child predators. He trolled the early AOL chat rooms to expose the new and flourishing community of people sharing child pornography online, and testified before Congress at a point when hardly anyone present understood what the Internet was. In a present-day interview, Crimmins describes his goals as “the overthrow of the government of the United States and closing the Catholic church.” It has never been sufficient for him to just make the audience laugh.
A compelling character, cultural forebear, beloved friend, and unsung comic and activist, Crimmins makes for an intriguing subject. Nevertheless, the film consists mostly of talking heads and decaying video clips. You’ll be the richer for spending time in Crimmins’ company, but the material seems better suited to the small screen.